Barker, Clive 1952–
Barker, Clive 1952–
PERSONAL: Born 1952, in Liverpool, England; son of Len (dock worker) and Joan (nurse) Barker; children: Nicole. Education: Received degree from University of Liverpool.
ADDRESSES: Home—Los Angeles, CA. Office—Stealth Press, 128 East Grant St., 4th Fl., Lancaster, PA 17602-2854.
CAREER: Illustrator, painter, actor, playwright, screenwriter, and author. Founder of Dog Company (theatre group) and Seraphim Productions (producer of Barker's novels, films, plays, CD-ROMs, comic books, and paintings). Director of short films, including Salome, 1973, and The Forbidden, 1978; director of feature-length films, including Hellraiser, 1987, Nightbreed, 1990, Lord of Illusions, 1995, and Tortured Souls, 2004. Executive producer of films, including Hellbound: Hell-raiser II, 1989, Hellraiser III: Hell on Earth, 1992, Candyman, 1992, Candyman II: Farewell to the Flesh, 1995, and Gods and Monsters, 1998. Exhibitions: Barker's paintings and drawings have appeared at Bess Cutler Gallery, New York, NY, 1993; South Coast Plaza branch, Laguna Art Museum, Costa Mesa, CA, 1995; and Pacific Design Center, West Hollywood, CA, 2002.
AWARDS, HONORS: Two British Fantasy awards from British Fantasy Society; World Fantasy Award for best anthology/collection from World Fantasy Convention, 1985, for Clive Barker's Books of Blood; Bram Stoker Award, Horror Writers Association, 2004, for Days of Magic, Nights of War.
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume One (contains "The Book of Blood," "In the Hills, the Cities," "The Midnight Meat Train," "Pig Blood Blues," "Sex, Death, and Starshine," and "The Yattering and Jack"), introduction by Ramsey Campbell, Sphere (London, England), 1984, Berkley (New York, NY), 1986.
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Two (contains "Dread," "Hell's Event," "Jaqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament," "New Murders in the Rue Morgue," and "The Skins of the Fathers"), Sphere (London, England), 1984, Berkley (New York, NY), 1986.
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Three (contains "Confessions of a [Pornographer's] Shroud," "Human Remains," "Rawhead Rex," "Scape-Goats," and "Son of Celluloid"), Sphere (London, England), 1984, Berkley (New York, NY), 1986.
Books of Blood, Volumes 1-3, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1985, published in one volume, Scream/Press (Santa Cruz, CA), 1985.
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Four (contains "The Age of Desire," "The Body Politic," "Down, Satan!," "The Inhuman Condition," and "Revelations"), Sphere (London, England), 1985, published as The Inhuman Condition: Tales of Terror, Poseidon (New York, NY), 1986.
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Five (contains "Babel's Children," "The Forbidden," "In the Flesh," and "The Madonna"), Sphere (London, England), 1985, published as In The Flesh: Tales of Terror, Poseidon (New York, NY), 1986.
Clive Barker's Books of Blood, Volume Six (includes "How Spoilers Breed," "The Last Illusion," "The Life of Death," "On Jerusalem Street," and "Twilight at the Towers"), Sphere (London, England), 1985.
Books of Blood, Volumes 4-6, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1986.
The Hellbound Heart (novella), published in Night Visions 3, edited by George R.R. Martin, Dark Harvest (Arlington Heights, IL), 1986, published separately, Simon & Schuster (New York, NY), 1988.
Cabal (includes novella "Cabal," and stories "How Spoilers Breed," "The Last Illusion," "The Life of Death," and "Twilight at the Towers"), Poseidon (New York, NY), 1988.
London, Volume One: Bloodline, Fantaco (Albany, NY), 1993.
1993–1994 Saint Sinner, Marvel Comics (New York, NY).
Clive Barker's A-Z of Horror, compiled by Stephen Jones, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1997.
Books of Blood (contains volumes 1-6), Stealth Press (Lancaster, PA), 2001.
Tapping the Vein, Checker Book Co. (Centerville, OH), 2002.
The Damnation Game, Weidenfeld & Nicolson (London, England), 1985, Putnam (New York, NY), 1987.
Weaveworld, Poseidon (New York, NY), 1987, illustrated by the author, Collins (London, England), 1987.
The Great and Secret Show: The First Book of the Art, Harper (New York, NY), 1989.
Imajica, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1991, published in two volumes as Imajica I: The Fifth Dominion and Imajica II: The Reconciliation, Harper (New York, NY), 1995, published in one volume with new illustrations, 2002.
The Thief of Always: A Fable, illustrated by Clive Barber, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1992.
Everville: The Second Book of the Art (sequel to The Great and Secret Show), HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1994.
Sacrament, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1996.
Galilee, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 1998.
Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2001.
"ABARAT QUARTET"; FOR CHILDREN; SELF-ILLUSTRATED
Abarat, HarperCollins (New York, NY), 2002.
Days of Magic, Nights of War, Joanna Cotler Books (New York, NY), 2004.
(With James Caplin) Underworld, Limehouse Pictures, 1985.
Rawhead Rex (adapted from his short story of the same title), Empire, 1986.
(And director) Hellraiser (adapted from his novella The Hellbound Heart), New World, 1987.
(And director) Nightbreed (adapted from his novella Cabal), Twentieth Century-Fox, 1990.
(And director and producer) Lord of Illusions (adapted from his short story "The Last Illusion"), United Artists, 1995.
(With Bernard Rose) The Thief of Always (adapted from his novel of the same title), Universal Pictures, 1998.
(And producer) Saint Sinner, Sci Fi Channel, 2002.
(Author of introduction) Ramsey Campbell, Scared Stiff: Tales of Sex and Death, Scream/Press (Santa Cruz, CA), 1987.
(Author of introduction) Night Visions Four (anthology), Dark Harvest (Arlington Heights, IL), 1987.
(Author of introduction) Taboo, edited by Stephen R. Bissette, SpiderBaby Grafix and Publications (Wilmington, VT), 1988.
Theatre Games, Heinemann (London, England), 1988.
(Illustrator) Fred Burke, Clive Barker: Illustrator, edited by Steve Niles, Arcane/ Eclipse (Forestville, CA), 1990.
Clive Barker's Nightbreed: The Making of the Film, Fontana (London, England), 1990.
(Author of introduction) H.R. Giger's Necronomicon, Morpheus International (Beverly Hills, CA), 1991.
(Author of introduction) Stephen King, Salem's Lot ("Stephen King Collectors Editions"), New American Library/Dutton (New York, NY), 1991.
Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden (autobiography), edited by Stephen Jones, Underwood-Miller (San Francisco, CA), 1991.
Pandemonium: The World of Clive Barker (autobiography), Eclipse (Forestville, CA), 1991.
(Illustrator) Fred Burke, Illustrator II: The Art of Clive Barker, edited by Amacker Bullwinkle, Eclipse (Forestville, CA), 1993.
Incarnations: Three Plays, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1995.
Forms of Heaven: Three Plays, HarperPrism (New York, NY), 1996.
(Author of introduction) Dark Dreamers, photographs by Beth Gwinn, commentary by Stanley Wiater, Cemetery Dance (Abingdon, MD), 2001.
(Editor, with others) Clive Barker's Hellraiser: Collected Best II, Checker (Centerville, NY), 2003.
Author of plays, including Frankenstein in Love, The History of the Devil, Subtle Bodies, and The Secret Life of Cartoons. Work represented in anthologies, including Cutting Edge and I Shudder at Your Touch: Twenty-two Tales of Sex and Horror. Has written stories for comic books, including Razorline for Marvel Comics. Also co-creator, with Todd McFarlane, of Tortured Souls, a serial novella combined with action figures, and film, produced by Universal. Contributor to periodicals, including American Film and Omni.
ADAPTATIONS: Barker's short story "The Forbidden" was adapted as the film Candyman in 1992; the short stories "In the Hills, the Cities" and "Son of Celluloid" were adapted for the Organic Theater in 1994. Film rights to Barker's "Arabat Quartet" novel series were purchased by the Walt Disney Company. A television series is being adapted from Lord of Illusions.
WORK IN PROGRESS: Further novels in the "Arabat Quartet"; book three in the "Book of the Art" trilogy; a sequel to Galilee.
SIDELIGHTS: "Renaissance man" is a tag often associated with Clive Barker, and for good reason. Since exploding into the publishing scene in the mid-1980s with six volumes of horror short stories known as the "Books of Blood," Barker steadily expanded his reach to the point where he became the driving force behind a creative empire. He has written short stories, novellas, novels, plays, and screenplays. He has directed, produced, and acted in films and plays. His drawings and paintings have appeared in books, comic books, art galleries, and museums. Others have adapted his work for the stage, the screen, for comic books, and for audiobooks. Still others have been inspired by his worlds and characters to create new films and comic books, carrying his creations even farther.
Due to the success of the six volumes of his "Books of Blood" series in both Great Britain and the United States, Barker has been hailed for his combination of unprecedented ugliness and literary touch. "I have seen the future of the horror genre, and his name is Clive Barker," Stephen King was quoted as saying in Publishers Weekly following the publication of one of the first books in the series. "What Barker does makes the rest of us look like we've been asleep for 10 years." Fellow Briton Ramsey Campbell offered a similar view as quoted in Books and Bookmen, terming Barker "the first true voice of the next generation of horror writers." Barker continues to make publishing history with his "Abarat Quartet," targeted for young adults as a competitor to J.K. Rowling's "Harry Potter" books and bankrolled to the tune of $8 million by the Walt Disney Studio for film, multimedia, and theme park rights.
Journalists who meet Barker observe that despite his nightmarish imagination, he seems very well adjusted: smiling, personable, and boyishly enthusiastic. In fact, Barker did not always intend to write horrific short stories. Born in Liverpool, England, in 1952, not far from the Penny Lane made famous by those other famous Liverpudlians, the Beatles, Barker came of age in an England still struggling to find its place in the postwar world. His father was a dock worker and his mother worked as a nurse. He developed a taste for the macabre and for fantastic literature as a youth, enjoying the works of authors Herman Melville, Ray Bradbury, C.S. Lewis, and Kenneth Grahame, among others. Speaking with Mikal Gilmore in Rolling Stone, Barker recalled, "I never read much material that didn't have some element of the extraordinary or the fantastic in it. Of course my parents were not really in sympathy with the surreal. I suppose that made it into a vice, which wasn't altogether a bad thing." Art also captured his attention as a youth. Increasingly he came to think of himself as an imaginer. "The whole point is to make your imagination work in the most potent way possible," Barker told S.C. Ringgenberg in an interview for Comics Journal. "Pretty early in my life I realized that I could do that and enjoy doing that, that it gave me, I suppose, a sense of power to do it. It was recognized by my parents, although not necessarily liked by them."
Barker's parents would have liked him to focus more on academics than fantasy. As the author told Ringgenberg, although his parents valued creativity, "they [came] from a generation where art was thought of as being practically indulgent, and in their hearts they probably still do." After studying English and philosophy at college in Liverpool, Barker moved to London, where he worked in the theater, did illustrations, and sometimes lived on welfare. As he told Ringgenberg, "Right from [the] start I was unemployed—gainfully unemployed, in the sense that I was writing plays and painting pictures." The theatre-going public soon saw the curtain go up on such Barker-penned fantasy plays as The History of the Devil and Frankenstein in Love. "The pieces were … very often surreal," Barker told Ringgenberg, "very often dark, and, I like to think, stimulating and a little controversial, which never hurts. By the age of 30 it was pretty apparent I wasn't going to make any money from this stuff." At this point, he decided to concentrate on the short fiction he had begun writing, but which only friends had seen.
After reading Dark Forces, a 1980 anthology edited by Stephen King's agent, Kirby McCauley, Barker perceived an audience for a new, more audacious kind of horror writing, and he quickly penned the first three volumes in the "Books of Blood" series. Initially Barker's fiction was only published in England, but his work caused such a stir among fantasy fans in North America that U.S. publishers soon produced their own editions. "I was completely unprepared for the fact that these things would find such favor," Barker told Ringgenberg. "I always thought that the work that I did was too off the beaten track really to find wide popular appeal. I remain astonished by that." Barker's "Books of Blood" series ultimately stretched to six volumes published between 1984 and 1986, firmly establishing him on both sides of the Atlantic as a major force in the new wave of horror writers.
Barker's stories, reviewers warn, are relentlessly graphic. Many consider such lack of restraint to be his trademark and his chief innovation. The author "never averts his gaze, no matter how gruesome the scene," explained Beth Levine in Publishers Weekly. "He follows every story through to its logical end, never flinching from detail. The result is mesmerizing, disturbing and elating, all at once." The story "In the Hills, the Cities" depicts an ancient quarrel between a pair of Yugoslavian towns: the townspeople abjure their individuality and form themselves into two lumbering giants who do battle. The title character of "Rawhead Rex," a flesh-eating monster, lingers indulgently over his evening meal, a freshly killed child, and especially enjoys the kidneys. As Mikal Gilmore wrote in Rolling Stone, "Barker's willingness to enter the sensibilities of his characters—to make their terrible desires comprehensible, even sympathetic—raises questions about both his work and modern horror in general. Namely, does it merely appeal to the meanness of the modern spirit?"
Barker and his admirers would respond that tales of terror can be valid as works of art and as social commentary. "I feel that horror literature is touching upon the big issues time and time again," the author told Omni: "death and life after death, sex after death, insanity, loneliness, anxiety. Horror writers are addressing the deepest concerns of the human condition." In remarks quoted in Publishers Weekly he rejected the common view of horror fiction as a defender of social and cultural norms, in which the monster is an outsider who is reassuringly destroyed. "I don't believe that's true of the world," he said. "We can't destroy the monster because the monster is us." Yet, as he explained to Richard Harrington of the Washington Post, these social and cultural norms try to block this realization. "We're attracted and repulsed, but our culture doesn't allow us to say, 'I like these guys; they are a part of me.' We define our humanity because we are not monsters—and that's a lie, a complete lie." The role of the horror writer, in Barker's view, is to expose this lie.
As Michael Morrison suggested in Fantasy Review, Barker's stories become a strongly worded commentary on human nature. In "Jaqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament," an embittered, suicidal woman discovers that psychokinetic powers can liberate her from the tyranny of men but not from her own hatred of life. In "The Skins of the Fathers," the monsters who approach a small town to reclaim their half-human child seem less repugnant than the cold, tough Americans who oppose them. Writers such as Barker, said Kim Newman in New Statesman, "raise the possibility that horror fiction is the most apt form for dealing with the subject of life in the late 20th century."
While he relishes horror stories, Barker has not confined himself to a single genre. By broadening his approach to handling the themes of his work, he has proven that for him there is more than gore. He told Books and Bookmen that he believes his work belongs to a broader category—"imaginative fiction"—which is a valid part of the larger literary tradition. "Mainstream" writers, Barker contended, readily use the techniques of imaginative fiction, though they may not admit it. Along with these techniques, Barker's works also show a deep interest in and respect for the power of the human imagination. As he told Robert W. Welkos in the Los Angeles Times, "Something that profoundly touches the imagination carries more weight in your present mental geography than things that actually happen to you." This power of imagination is a key element of Barker's novels.
Barker's first novel, The Damnation Game, "a tour-deforce of gruesome supernatural horror" in the words of Chris Morgan of Fantasy Review, made the New York Times best-seller list within a week of its publication in 1987. The story is one of betrayal and vengeance involving two mythic figures, the Thief and the Card-player. Just after World War II in war-torn Warsaw, Poland, the Thief betrays the Cardplayer. Forty years later the Thief has become Joseph Whitehead, the wealthy head of a London drug company. The centuries-old Cardplayer, also known as Mamoulian, tracks down his nemesis and looks to exact revenge on Whitehead as payment for his betrayal.
As in his short stories, in The Damnation Game Barker combines unflinching horror with a literary sensibility. Morgan noted that "the most startling features of his work are the fact that he allows no depth of nastiness, cruelty or perversion to go unplumbed and the beautifully figurative and allusive nature of his prose style." Colin Greenland drew a similar conclusion, commenting in British Book News that "Barker is generous with the gore and grue …, but he is also a highly literate fantasist, and makes powerful use of the subtleties and ambiguities inherent in the situation." Barker also draws on his experience in a variety of creative forms. "The author's experience with short stories, and also with stage and film plays," noted Greenland, "shows strongly in his organization of the action by tableaux." This is not always used to the best effect, suggested Greenland. "At times he is apt to load more emotional or symbolic weight onto a scene than its position in the plot will easily bear, but he never loses his grip on the reader's nerve-ends."
Some reviewers found that Barker's first novel lacked the depth required of true literature. In his review of Damnation Game, New York Times Book Review contributor Alan Caruba found that Barker's "unremitting devotion to the most sickening imagery" overwhelms any deeper meaning the story might have. The critic added, "The absence of meaning in all this is the flaw that runs through what might have been an allegory of evil, an extended commentary on the various addictions that entrap people." Laurence Coven conceded in the Washington Post Book World that Barker's "overkill deprives us of a sense of anticipation, and … suspense." Yet, he also observed, "Time after time Barker makes us shudder in revulsion. In pure descriptive power there is no one writing horror fiction now who can match him. And to his credit, Barker does not write in a social vacuum. His terrors arise, at least in part, from a profound sadness and misery he perceives in the human condition."
In his 1987 novel Weaveworld, Barker pushes his writing even farther beyond the bounds of horror toward the fantasy genre, to what the author himself calls "the fantastique." "The fantastique," he explained to Richard Harrington in the Washington Post, "at its heart is a genre, or a collection of genres, which grow because of the ambiguities, because they're not about fixed moral codes; they're about shifting moral codes." Weaveworld is still punctuated by Barker's characteristically graphic writing, but, as Colin Greenland related in the Times Literary Supplement, the book "is almost classically a romance, a heraldic adventure in which figures possessed by principles, of love or greed or despair, pursue one another headlong with spells or pistols through a vague locality full of numinous things." Weaveworld is the story of a magic carpet, but one unlike those of the Arabian Nights which transport people from one place to another. This magic carpet contains within its weave a mystical realm created by the last of a race of magicians as a means to escape from sinister intruders, both mortal and supernatural.
In creating his story of this magical-carpet world and its contact with our own world, Barker follows the example of the weaver, bringing together many different threads to create a complex, intertwined whole. He also projects the dreamy, imaginative state of anyone who, in contemplating the complex design of a well-made rug, gets lost in its weave. As Phil Normand put it in the Bloomsbury Review, Weaveworld "is a tapestry of themes and characters. Beyond the chase-and-capture plot," he added, "we are called to rejoice in the strength of dream. This is a book of fantasy about fantasy, the struggle for man's dominion over the ungovernable casts of the imagination. It is about finding a place as close as breath where all things have a special purpose and meaning." Reviewer John Calvin Batchelor recog-nized the fantasy elements of Barker's novel, but found that the author's fantasy resonates into contemporary times. "Barker reveals his prodigious talent for erecting make-believe worlds in the midst of [British Prime Minister Margaret] Thatcher's tumbledown kingdom of Windsorian privilege and secretly policed ghettos," Batchelor wrote in the New York Times Book Review. "Reaching into its degraded and strangely fertile streets, he creates a fantastic romance of magic and promise that is at once popular fiction and utopian conjuring."
The Great and Secret Show and Everville are the first two installments in Barker's "Book of the Art" trilogy. The Art is a magical power that gives those who wield it control in our world and the dimensions beyond. As with his other novels, Barker finds dramatic tension and a spotlighted canvas on which to compose his thematic concerns in bringing together the mundane and the supernatural. In The Great and Secret Show, Randolf Jaffe—a postman in the dead-letter office at the Omaha post office—discovers the existence of a secret dream-sea that lies beyond the world as we know it. On further investigation, he learns of the Art and sets out to master it. In the course of his quest, Jaffe enlists the help of scientist Richard Fletcher, but the partnership eventually devolves into a rivalry over who will be the first to possess the Art. Ken Tucker, in a New York Times Book Review piece, called The Great and Secret Show "a cross between 'Gravity's Rainbow' and J.R.R. Tolkien's 'Lord of the Rings,' allusive and mythic, complex and entertaining."
While Tucker recognized that Barker set high goals for the novel, the reviewer found that the author had come up short. "From 'The Great and Secret Show,' it is clear that Mr. Barker's intention is to force the horror genre to encompass a kind of dread, and existential despair, that it hasn't noticeably evinced until now," Tucker commented. "This is a tall order, one that this novel, which is skillful and funny but ultimately overwrought, doesn't quite accomplish." Washington Post reviewer David Foster Wallace also noted Barker's execution. He contended, "Barker demands that the reader take him seriously but declines to do the artistic work necessary to make his story believable or even coherent."
For reviewer Barry Schechter, however, The Great and Secret Show is worthy of praise, both for its author's craft and its thematic concerns. In a Chicago Tribune piece, Schechter observed that Barker "proves himself an expert tactician, smoothly deploying over 40 characters and any number of careening, converging plots. He renders it all in a precise, ironic, measured style that avoids both campy humor and pretentious solemnity." He added, "A Britisher, Barker seems fascinated by the contrast between the American Dream and the atrophying American imagination: Even his self-created gods are hemmed in by lack of imagination and the trashy Hollywood images cluttering their minds." In conclusion, Schechter commented, "At a time of literary minimalism, read-my-lips political discourse and a moribund pop culture, 'The Great and Secret Show' is a maelstrom of fresh air."
Everville: The Second Book of the Art begins in 1848 with a party of pioneers setting out from Missouri to travel the Oregon Trail to the Northwest Territory. These pioneers face all of the hardships that have made their historical counterparts part of American legend. Yet, this is the work of Clive Barker: An otherworldly beast enters the mix and helps the party to found a new town on a border, not between territories, but between our world and the dream-sea introduced in The Great and Secret Show. The clock then moves forward to present-day Oregon, where a rift is opening between the two worlds and with consequences that threaten to be disastrous. The story that results, according to Elizabeth Hand in the Washington Post Book World, is "less a classic struggle between Good and Evil than it is a race to see who will put his (or her, or its) finger in the dike, and who will help the walls come tumbling down and loose the awful" creatures from the other world upon us.
As with many sequels, Everville faces the challenge of connecting with its predecessor and yet still having enough of its own elements to stand alone. Hand found that the novel's fast-paced action and the many characters and themes made it dependent on its previous volume. "Barker's strength is not really in his plotting," she observed. "Everville rolls along like an out-of-control juggernaut, and a reader who hasn't been primed by reading The Great and Secret Show should prepare to hang on for dear life or risk being crushed." Yet, in the opinion of Bruce Allen in the New York Times Book Review, this effort on the part of readers is well rewarded. "Readers who'll hang on for the wild ride throughout this exhilarating trilogy-in-progress may be surprised by the depths and heights thus encountered," he suggested. "Barker is much more than a genre writer, and his extravagantly unconventional inventions are ingenious refractions of our common quest to experience and understand the mysterious world around us and the mysteries within ourselves."
In novels such as Imajica, Sacrament, and Galilee, as well as in the children's horror story The Thief of Always, Barker continues to explore his vision of the fan-tastique that arises where the real and imagined collide, and how this vision sheds light on the human condition. A failed murder inspired by jealousy becomes entwined with a failed attempt to unite our world with a supernatural otherworld in Imajica. This 1991 dark fantasy is "rich in plot twists, byzantine intrigues and hidden secrets," noted Stefan Dziemianowicz in the Washington Post Book World. "Imajica is a Chinese puzzle box constructed on a universal scale. Not only has Barker imagined a commonplace world in which wonders lurk beneath the most banal surfaces, he has also taken the issues of our time—AIDS, the intransigence of sexual and racial politics, censorship, political repression, class struggle—and turned them into the stuff of myth."
Sacrament is the tale of Will Rabjohns, a wildlife photographer who is attacked and left for dead by a polar bear in northern Canada. In a coma, Rabjohns relives pivotal moments from his childhood. After he returns to consciousness and recovers, he travels to San Francisco and his native England to reconcile some personal metaphysical issues. A contributor to Kirkus Reviews characterized the novel variously as "suspenseful, intellectually exciting, wildly melodramatic, turgid, and bombastic." The reviewer added, "Barker's novel is charged—in its complex development and surprising resolution—with very real, very human emotion. A weirdly absorbing and entertaining tale that offers more disturbing delights from one of our most inventive and risk-taking writers."
Barker's novel Galilee is a saga that pits two families in a centuries-old struggle. A reviewer for Publishers Weekly reported that "the novel's scale is smaller than that of previous Barker efforts—missing are the titanic battles of form vs. chaos, good vs. evil, the riot of wonders and terrors. But it's less cluttered, too, despite abundant inspiration and invention." A Kirkus Reviews writer termed Galilee "a black comedy of miscegenation and its discontents that has to be a sendup of both the Harlequin romance and the American Southern Gothic novel."
In 2001 Barker released his first novel in three years, Coldheart Canyon, a Hollywood Babylon fantasy-chiller. The story follows movie star Todd Pickett, a character who "bears the strongest resemblance to Tom Cruise that is legally possible," as New York Times reviewer Janet Maslin remarked. Sadly for Todd, his sex appeal is fading as he ages, so on the advice of a studio head, he opts for plastic surgery. Of course, complications ensue: "Barker wouldn't have a story if the chemical peel didn't go horribly awry," Maslin noted. Seeking to hide his deformities, Todd takes refuge in an old Los Angeles mansion that was once the site of wild parties and is now haunted by the ghosts of Hollywood past. Todd encounters the house's mistress, Katya Lupi, who must be at least one hundred years old yet appears as youthful and nubile as she did in her days as a silent-screen vamp. As Katya turns her seductive powers toward Todd, the book reveals the mansion as a netherworld that features sadistic sex between all manner of creatures, both real and imagined.
Coldheart Canyon runs an epic-length 600 pages, surprising even its author, who revealed to Clive Barker Revelations online interviewers Phil and Sarah Stokes that the original concept "was really going to be a very simple book about a rather narcissistic actor in Hollywood who encounters some ghosts … and as I got into it I realised these ghosts are sort of really interesting, and I want to write about them because they represent old Hollywood and here I have a chance not only to talk about new Hollywood but also to talk about old Hollywood and to contrast their methodologies."
Barker's depiction of Tinseltown scandal and gothic horror caught the eye of reviewers, including Maslin, who said Coldheart Canyon "unfolds with genuine momentum, the vigorous style of a fully engaged storyteller." USA Today contributor Robert Allen Papinchak likewise enjoyed the book, saying that "lush, musky prose and crisp, staccato dialogue propel the ghost story as assuredly as the perfumed breezes of the Santa Ana winds that open and close this endlessly entertaining novel."
In 2001 Barker also announced that he was beginning work on a novel series suitable for younger readers, the series to be called the "Abarat Quartet." Film rights to the still-unwritten books were promptly bought by family-friendly Walt Disney Company. Barker voiced high expectations for this series; as he told Phil and Sarah Stokes, "Abarat" "is bigger than we thought it was going to be…. Originally I thought it was going to be a sort of Narnia size, now it turns out to be more sort of a Harry Potter size!" Working from a plethora of self-painted illustrations of the characters—a technique the author often employs—Barker toyed with the idea of the fictional place called Abarat for many years. "It began with a painting," noted Jeff Jensen in Entertainment Weekly. "A portrait of a cranky old man in a canary suit, six squished hats stacked atop his head." For Barker, this portrait began his journey into the world of Abarat. For seven years Barker continued to paint the characters forming in his imagination, pictures that are both "whimsical and weird," according to Jensen, "Cirque du Soleil meets circus freak show." According to Jensen, the resulting first novel of the quartet is a "blend of Alice in Wonderland and The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe."
Indeed, Barker has long wanted to concoct a children's epic that would be a tip of the hat to C.S. Lewis and his "Chronicles of Narnia," but his publishers initially resisted the idea. Finally he got his chance at such a large-scale children's book, in the self-illustrated Abarat fashioning a tale of Candy Quackenbush, a heroine partly modeled after Barker's adopted daughter, Nicole. Candy is fed up with her quiet life in Chickentown, Minnesota, and longs for adventures. Cutting class one day and walking in the fields near town, she gets her wish. Diving into a mysterious sea that suddenly appears, she is transported to the magical world of Abarat with its twenty-five islands, one for every hour of the day, plus an extra one called Time outside of Time. As she travels from island to island in the bizarre archipelago, Candy is thrust into a battle for power between Christopher Carrion, the Lord of Midnight, and his arch-rival, Rojo Pixler of Commexo City. Slowly Candy begins to understand that her journey to Abarat is not merely some incredible accident, but actually her destiny. Included in the first "Abarat" novel are over one hundred of Barker's "quirky, grotesque, and campy" illustrations, as Booklist's Sally Estes described the artwork.
Abarat presents a "beautiful and frightening world," according to Alison Ching in School Library Journal, who prophesied that the quartet "is sure to be a rollicking, epic ride." Estes had praise for the novel, calling it a "multilayered adventure story" reminiscent of "Oz, Wonderland, and Narnia … [as well as] Aldous Huxley's Brave New World." A critic for Kirkus Reviews similarly found Abarat "an intriguing creation deserving of comparison to Oz." However, the same reviewer found a "peculiar lifelessness to all this imaginative fecundity." A contributor for Publishers Weekly also felt that Barker's "imagination runs wild as he conjures up striking imagery." For this critic, the novel is "unwieldy," but also full of "thrills and chills." The second installment of the quartet, Days of Magic, Nights of Wa r, continues Candy's adventures as Carrion and Pix-ler's efforts to launch all-out war against each other help the young heroine learn her purpose in Barker's amazing fantasy world.
In addition to his printed works, Barker has continued to display a broad range of artistic talents. Most visible to the public eye have been the movies for which Barker has served as screenwriter, director, or executive producer. Barker's Hellraiser and Candyman have attracted a cult following and have taken on a life of their own. With his 1995 Lord of Illusions he brought his own short story, "The Last Illusion," to the screen. In 1999 he broke into a more serious mode by producing the critically acclaimed Gods and Monsters, which examines the complex personal life of aging homosexual film director James Whale, who made the 1930s horror classic Frankenstein.
In his movies, his writings, and his other creations, Barker has been credited with pushing the horror genre to new levels of gory violence. Yet, as he expanded his creative powers and as his audience has grown, he has been able to compose a broader understanding of horror. Barker suggested to Mikal Gilmore in Rolling Stone that an interest in horror can be natural and healthy. "Within the circle of your skull you have an immense imaginative freedom," he told Gilmore. "For Christ's sake, use it to understand your response to death … eroticism … all the things that come to haunt you and attract you and repulse you in your dreams. Because as soon as you relinquish control and lay your head down on the pillow, those things are going to come anyway." Reflecting the opinion of many critics, Guardian contributor China Mieville noted: "Barker is one of the few writers who has altered an entire field: more than anyone since [H. P.] Lovecraft, he has changed the shape, the corporeality of horror."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
Badley, Linda, Writing Horror and the Body: The Fiction of Stephen King, Clive Barker, and Anne Rice, Greenwood Press (Westport, CT), 1996.
Barbieri, Suzanne J., Clive Barker: Mythmaker for the Millennium, British Fantasy Society (Stockport, Lancashire, England), 1994.
Bestsellers '90, issue 3, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1990.
Contemporary Literary Criticism, Volume 52, Thomson Gale (Detroit, MI), 1989.
Hoppenstand, Gary, editor, Clive Barker's Short Stories: Imagination as Metaphor in the Books of Blood and Other Works, McFarland (Jefferson, NC), 1994.
Jones, Stephen, editor, Clive Barker's Shadows in Eden (bibliography), Underwood-Miller (Lancaster, PA), 1991.
McCauley, Kirby, editor, Dark Forces: New Stories of Suspense and Supernatural Horror, Bantam (New York, NY), 1980.
St. James Encyclopedia of Popular Culture, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 2000.
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Advocate, September 28, 1999, review of The Essential Clive Barker, p. 98.
American Theatre, May-June, 1993, p. 6.
Billboard, July 21, 2001, Christa Titus, "Unlikely Couple Weaving Musical Magic into Barker's Art," p. 78.
Bloomsbury Review, September-October, 1987, Phil Normand, review of Weaveworld, p. 21.
Booklist, October 15, 1992, p. 379; February 1, 1994, p. 989; September 15, 1994, p. 83; June 1, 1996, p. 1628; November 15, 1999, review of The Essential Clive Barker, p. 608; August, 2001, Ray Olson, review of Coldheart Canyon, p. 2049; September 1, Sally Estes, review of Abarat, p. 120; June 1, Ray Olson, review of Clive Barker's Hell-raiser: Collected Best II, p. 1724.
Books and Bookmen, July, 1985; September, 1987.
Bookwatch, April, 1999, review of The History of the Devil (audio version), p. 10.
British Book News, December, 1985, Colin Greenland, review of The Damnation Game, p. 742.
Chicago Tribune, September 15, 1987; February 5, 1990, section 5, p. 3; February 19, 1990, section 5, p. 3; December 29, 1992, section 5, p. 3; May 23, 1993, section 13, p. 22; August 25, 1995, p. 7H.
Comics Journal, September, 1994, S.C. Ringgenberg, "A Man for All Seasons: Clive Barker Interview."
Detroit Free Press, December 23, 1988.
Entertainment Weekly, September 25, 1992, p. 43; September 15, 1995, p. 87; October 4, 2002, Jeff Jensen, review of Abarat, p. 21.
Fantasy Review, February, 1985; June, 1985, p. 15; August, 1985; September, 1985, p. 16; October, 1986, p. 19; April, 1987, Chris Morgan, review of The Damnation Game, p. 32.
Guardian, October 17, 1986; October 19, 2002, China Mieville, review of Abarat.
Journal of Popular Culture, winter, 1993, p. 35.
Kirkus Reviews, August 1, 1987, p. 1085; May 15, 1996, review of Sacrament; May 11, 1998, review of Galilee; October 15, 1999, review of The Essential Clive Barker, p. 1603; August 1, 2001, review of Coldheart Canyon, p. 1043; September 1, 2002, review of Abarat, p. 1303.
Kliatt, November, 2002, Michele Winship, review of Abarat, p. 6.
Library Journal, January, 1990, p. 145; December, 1991; February, 1993; July, 1996, p. 152; November 1, 1999, review of The Essential Clive Barker, p. 80; August, 2001, Nancy McNicol, review of Coldheart Canyon, p. 156; February 1, 2002, Michael Rogers, review of Books of Blood, p. 138.
Locus, December, 1992, p. 17; January, 1993, p. 19; November, 1994, p. 17.
Los Angeles Magazine, October, 2002, "Buzz Cuts," p. 26.
Los Angeles Times, February 19, 1990, p. F4; October 11, 1992, p. CAL3; August 22, 1995, p. F1; August 25, 1995, p. F10.
Los Angeles Times Book Review, August 10, 1986; June 14, 1987; October 11, 1992, p. 3.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, August, 1987; May, 1990, p. 44; April, 1993, p. 26; July, 1999, review of Galilee, p. 37.
New Statesman, July 18, 1986, p. 29; October 5, 1990, p. 30; December 7, 1990, p. 34; March 22, 1996, p. 38.
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New York Times, September 20, 1987; February 17, 1990, p. A19; August 25, 1995, p. C6; October 25, 2001, Janet Maslin, "Sex with Dead Film Stars Means Breakfast for One"; February 1, 2002, Michael Rogers, review of Books of Blood, p. 138.
New York Times Book Review, September 21, 1986, p. 26; February 15, 1987, p. 20; June 21, 1987, p. 22; November 22, 1987, p. 32; December 18, 1988; February 11, 1990, Ken Tucker, review of The Great and Secret Show, p. 11; November 20, 1994, Bruce Allen, review of Everville, p. 18.
Notes on Contemporary Literature, November, 1994, p. 7.
Observer (London, England), December 27, 1987, p. 17; December 17, 1989, p. 46; February 14, 1993, p. 59.
Omni, October, 1986.
Orlando Business Journal, August 24, 2001, Alan Byrd, "Clive Barker and Disney: Now There's an E-Ticket Ride," p. 3.
People, June 15, 1987; September 18, 1995, p. 27; November 5, 2001, Bernard Welt, review of Coldheart Canyon, p. 51.
Publishers Weekly, December 13, 1985; July 4, 1986; December 22, 1989, p. 44; September 28, 1992; September 12, 1994, p. 78; May 27, 1996, p. 63; July 1, 1996, p. 30; May 11, 1998, p. 49; April 12, 1999, review of The History of the Devil (audio version), p. 32; October 11, 1999, review of TheEssential Clive Barker, p. 57; March 26, 2001, review of Dark Dreamers, p. 68; July 23, 2001, review of Coldheart Canyon, p. 55; February 4, review of The Thief of Always, p. 78; February 11, 2002, review of Books of Blood, p. 167; June 24, 2002, review of Abarat, p. 58; August 11, review of Clive Barker's Hellraiser: Collected Best II, p. 259.
Rolling Stone, February 11, 1988.
School Library Journal, October, 2002, Alison Ching, review of Abarat, pp. 154-155.
Time, March 19, 1990, p. 84.
Times (London, England), October 17, 1986.
Times Literary Supplement, February 12, 1988, Colin Greenland, review of Weaveworld, p. 172.
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USA Today, August 25, 1995, p. D12.
USA Weekend, October 9-11, 1987; January 26, 1990, p. 8; June 24, 1994, p. 4.
Variety, August 21, 1995, p. 67.
Video, April, 1988.
Village Voice, December 2, 1986, p. 63.
Washington Post, September 30, 1987; November 17, 1988; February 19, 1990, David Foster Wallace, review of The Great and Secret Show, p. D3; September 11, 1992, p. B1.
Washington Post Book World, August 24, 1986, p. 6; June 28, 1987, p. 10; September 27, 1987; October 27, 1991, p. 8; February 28, 1993, p. 6; December 18, 1994, Elizabeth Hand, review of Everville, p. 5.
Clive Barker Official Web site, http://www.clivebarker.com/ (June 4, 2003).
Clive Barker Revelations, http://www.clivebarker.dial.pipex.com/ (April 7, 2004), Phil Stokes and Sarah Stokes, "Open Roads…. What Price Wonderland?"
January Magazine, http://www.januarymagazine.com/ (June 4, 2003), Linda Richards, "Clive Barker Biography."
USA Today, http://www.usatoday.com/ (October 26, 2001), Robert Allen Papinchak, "Clive Barker Fills 'Canyon' with Secrets, Dead Souls."