(For the ever-popular Throwback Thursday, I present the following, a review I wrote for Amazon back in 1998)
... the eternal city, the mythic point where this earth and the
heavens meet, the "axis mundi," the crossroads of eternity and time,
the sacred and the profane. Is Clive Barker
the only author of these
sore days who sees into these crossroads? It's a more than worthy sequel to 1989's The Great and Secret Show
. Barker continually impresses
me with each new book, both in the themes and characters he explores,
the language he uses, and his subversion of the both the horror and
fantasy genres. If I see one more book review or interview that refers
to him as a "master of horror" - argh! He's got more in
common with a Joseph Campbell, a William Blake, a Dali or Cocteau, than any mere
horror writer. I think Everville
is a very good book; but yes, I did get
some smirks and sneers from my more "literary" acquaintances. Pity -they don't
know what they're missing.
2009 UK reprint
Barker's prose is as measured and musical
as ever; this is the first book of his which, on several occasions,
stirred me nearly to tears. While reading it, I kept a pen nearby, underlining
dozens of beautiful passages. The story flows effortlessly - which it
needs to, as Barker understands, as Story is the only way things of
consequence get told. As he writes: And every life, however short,
however meaningless it seems, is a leaf on the story tree.
British-born Barker does well depicting "everyday" people in a small
American town; a nice change from the distant misfits of his short
stories and early novels. There is risk-taking here on his part, and
yes, sometimes some of the Americana rings a tad false, and I was little
let down by the literalization of Quiddity, but any writer who has the
courage to revision Jesus, the Christ - the Christ of Dreams, and
Dreaming - in the course of a "popular" novel, has my utmost admiration.
Of course, anyone who's read Imajica
knows Barker does not shy away from re-imagining of what the supernatural is and what it means to those caught up in it.
1995 UK paperback
I love Barker's depiction of reality as ever in
flux, something malleable and always in transformation. As Joe Flicker
asks himself, traveling through the Metacosm: "But when he slept here,
and dreamed, was he entering yet another reality, beyond this one, where
he might also sleep and dream?"
An eternal question, asked by the ancients of all cultures. Stories and dreams have always made
and remade the world; we are never satisfied with Reality. Why else
would we regale ourselves with tales and visions of resurrections and
journeys, virgin births and sacred mountains, men of wisdom and women of
purity? All of this is "the Great and Secret Show" we never tire of,
and Barker seems to effortlessly reach behind the veil and pluck out our
appetites, our perversities, our loves and our hopes, our desires to
comprehend these mysteries. That, I think, is the Art: a skill to divine
our souls. One character, Owen Buddenbaum, desiring communion with the "gods", expresses
...to be free of every frailty, including love; free to
live out of time, out of place, out of every particular. He would be
unmade, the way divinities were unmade, because divinities were without
beginning and without end: a rare and wonderful condition.
1999 Harper trade paperback reprint
visions in Everville
are classic Barker: the creation of the Metacosm (a Jungian archetype
if ever there was one) by Maeve O'Connell and Coker Ammiano - a
whorehouse at the crossroads, negating the bluster about this nation
being found on Christian values. Joe Flicker in the Metacosm, and absorbed
into the 'Shu (marine pieces of the Creator - see Barker's sketch at bottom), then into the Iad, then a
wandering spirit dreamed to glorious flesh by his lover Phoebe; the
transformation of Tesla, and the glimpses she gives to Detective D'Amour of
stories to come; Tommy the Death-Boy cradling a child "to his burned body,
whistling for the killing cloud to follow him"
; Lucien's talk of us
being "vessels for the infinite"
; the description of the city b'Kether
Sabbat, "shaped like an inverted pyramid, balanced on its tip."
those, and more, right this way....
This is an amazing book, a
gripping read, an epic in the making of "four journeys" as Barker
writes: "One to the dream world, one to the real; one to the bestial;
one to the divine."
Like many contemporary literary novels, Everville
is concerned with the act of storytelling itself, a
self-conscious reflection on the creation of tales, events and
characters readers know are made up but still have the power to
transform and enlighten - in fact, they transform and enlighten precisely because
they are created by us. Read this book carefully, savor its elegance and
ferocity of imagination, and you will be uplifted. Everville
- and Barker's fiction in general - is a worthy
addition to the infinite branches of the story tree.