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Clive Barker--De Profundis

Posted on 2007.11.18 at 14:58
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Last Thursday, I had the pleasure of seeing a hero of mine, the sinner-saint, and demon-visionary, Clive Barker.* So many of those who shaped how I see the world, and more specifically how I perceive the written word, have stepped out of space and out of time--Poe, Lovecraft, Melville, Emily Bronte, Burroughs, Hubert Selby, Jr., T.S. Elliot--the list goes on and on, and how I wish I could have met each one of them, to thank them for blasting wide the horizon of my mind. 
But when it comes to Clive Barker, I’ve been fortunate. I’ve met him a dozen times at signings and exhibitions, and once even interviewed him--a highlight of my life.   Make no mistake, we’re not chums, or even acquaintances--how I wish that I could claim such familiarity, but I realize I’m just one face among many admirers. And yet I count myself grateful for the brief encounters, like drinking from a wellspring of pure creative force. How fortunate to share time with the one who inspired you most, to shake a warm hand instead of lighting a candle for a corpse. 
Clive Barker shines, I tell you, bursting with humanity. He ventures into to darkness and brings back reports from the front lines of heaven and hell. But he doesn’t come across with a brooding aloofness, rather with profound compassion and appreciation. Apologies, if I sound like a sycophant--these merely are notes from the field. A crowd turned out to see him and waited for hours, to get “Mister B Gone” signed and earlier works. Not a soul left without an intimate encounter. For those of you who have met him, you know what I mean. He not only gives, he takes, or should I say partakes. One couple who came to see him drove for over an hour, a couple in their eighties no less.
As far as news on the publishing front, the next book out for Clive will be Abarat 3, which he said he hopes to have on the shelf in late 2008. Originally the novel was slated for a late 2007 release, but according to him, he’s still writing and revising it. “Scarlet Gospels,” his long awaited descent into hell, where Detective Harry D’Amour takes a journey into Dis, and we learn the full history of Pinhead and the Cenobites, including, it is reported, the story of Pinhead’s demise, has been pushed back until a later date. He’s just delivered the fourth draft of the novel to his typist, and after he reviews it, it will go to his editor. The hand-written fourth draft runs over four-thousand pages, and he said the typed version will run around 200k words. He’s obsessed with getting the epic right, and revising like mad, on a book that looks to rival “Imajica” in size and scope. He described it as “the darkest, grimmest, most brutal thing I’ve ever written, and I doubt I’ll go anywhere so dark ever again.”
I asked him, “Is this darkness a reflection of our times?“ He replied, “Well, these are dark days, just look at the world. With Bush and the War, the evidence of global warming--we’re in a hell of sorts right now.” I nodded--“And what you’re going through with your husband must be hell.”   He looked pained and nodded, “that’s gone into it too.” I told him how sorry I am, that David is in my thoughts, and that I pray he makes a full recovery. His husband, the love of his life, is going through chemotherapy. I can only hope David, a fine-art photographer and wonderful man, is restored to health. May he have a rich life and more years before him than behind.

I brought along a black leather jacket to this signing, on which Clive had done a full back-panel piece of art, way back in ‘91 when he was doing a tour for “Imajica.” The original illustration was done with a gold paint pen, a demon scorpion-woman-man that shifted with perspective. The scorpion’s stinger became a barbed, serpentine penis, and the monster’s claws were two splayed legs.  Its vulvae opened into fangs like a pair of ice tongs, and the chitin-armored body swelled with a pair of lethal breasts. Depending on how you looked at it, it was splayed on it’s back, daring you to give it amorous attention, or crawling toward you, ready to strike with a venomous cock. Over time the illustration had faded away, leaving a green ghost on the leather.
At Clive Barker’s last signing, I mentioned the jacket. He told me to bring it to the next signing, and he’d see if he could restore it to its obscene glory. I remember when he first drew it, he asked what I wanted, and I said to let loose with whatever came to mind. He smiled, and warned me, “Are you sure? Be careful what license you give me. You might not be able to wear it in public.”    I promised, indeed, I would wear it, and wear it proudly.
So at this signing he remembered and asked if I brought the jacket.   I told him yes, but if he wasn’t up to it, I understood. He smiled and said he was glad to work on it. I waited until after the crowd left and the doors were locked, one of a privileged few who remained as he signed stock. When he finished he asked for my jacket and studied it intently. He asked if he could draw a new image over the ghost of the first, as the latter had faded beyond redemption. I nodded and watched with rapt attention as he went to work, this time with a silver permanent marker. His eyes turned inward--I saw the change. He didn’t answer when spoken to by those in the room. Questions went unheard and silence descended. He didn’t look up, but his hand moved and his breath grew still, as he went to some other place that welcomed him home. 
Then as he fleshed out a demon with a giant phallus sprouting from its shoulders, he began to describe what he saw. “Do you see? Here’s the foreskin, rolling off his head. Do you see the tongue?--his hunger knows no bounds.” A twisting tongue unfurled from the yawning jaws, and machete fins sprouted from the monster’s bloated neck.   “And here, his clawed legs are spread; he’s leaning back, waiting. Waiting for you?” Clive smiled. “He needs another cock.” A second phallus stretched up between the demon’s legs, with a bulging, sagging scrotum, bristling with hair. Silver semen spurted across the demon’s knee and thigh. The misshapen blobs grew pointed and evolved into stars, a constellation of silver stars swarming around the demon. “You see his semen change, his desire discharge? As he lets go, his lust gives birth to stars.”  
He finished drawing, he came back, his eyes intense and clear, too blue as if reflecting an alien sky. I took the jacket, thanked him, I could barely speak. Here was a work of art I could wear, or hang and revere, a portrait of a mad god of desire. I was stunned, it was as if he had reached into my mind, spreading the slick folds of my fever dreams. The demon bore an uncanny resemblance to one in my second book, in a draft I had written almost two years before. I felt he had crawled under my skin and seen some secret there, plumbed depths that somehow we both shared. I like to think both of us visit the same shore, but I’ve got a visitor’s pass, and he, a permanent visa. He said he loved how the ghost of the past shone through the present, and asked me to put on the jacket and turn around. I did, and heard him say, “Yes, yes. That’s him.”
I thanked him, beaming, flushed--stripped of cool composure. And he said, “I’m happy I could give you such joy.”
Ah, Mr. Barker, a thousand thanks. You’ve honored me far more than I deserve.
*Courtesy of the amazing gang at Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore.


allaboutm_e at 2007-11-19 00:40 (UTC) (Link)
What a wonderful gift. Clive is the bestest.
rjcrowtherjr at 2007-11-19 03:09 (UTC) (Link)

Missed you!

Hey, ME, it was such a wonderful time! Clive was so charming, and more than generous. I wish you and Jeff could have been there, then it would have been perfect. I sure miss the old days with you guys at MG. But I bet you don't miss the fires, traffic, and crowds! Love to you all--Rob
allaboutm_e at 2007-11-19 16:53 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Missed you!

I'll be at our "Something for Everyone" event on Friday night, Dec. 7. Jeff probably won't be at MG again until the Birthday Bash in May, though. Maybe see you then?
rjcrowtherjr at 2007-12-03 22:33 (UTC) (Link)

Re: Missed you!

Ah, ME, I wish I could see you at the event. I'll be slaving away that night at the ol' Brick and Mortar. Grr...I miss out on so many wonderful events and seeing favorite friends like you because I'm a corporate slave. I'd miss out on less fun if I didn't have the sleep cycle of a vampire. What would I do without you and Mysterious Galaxy? It's an island of wonder in a cold, banal world.

XO, Rob
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