Archive for books of blood

Forbidden Tomes: BOOKS OF BLOOD I-III by CLIVE BARKER

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , on November 28, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Logic would never place horror and erotica in the same field. But history goes to show, these two genres often cross over, finding commonalities in each other that perhaps should not be uncovered. For the most part these crossovers are subtle and quiet. Not so with Clive Barker, who broke open the pairing with his debut work, the BOOKS OF BLOOD.

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First published in 1984, these stories combine two things that often go together – sex and death – but does so in such a blatant, shameless, and powerful way that is so rarely seen. Clive Barker is obsessed with flesh. His prose style is unflinching and brutal, often satirical, but always engrossing (emphasis on gross) in its exploration of the human body. It makes sense, then, that he would focus his stories on the most corporeal of all human acts: fornication and decay.

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The three-part collection is split into different forms of stories. There are traditional horror yarns – “The Midnight Meat Train,” “Rawhead Rex,” and “Scape-Goats,” et cetera – and more comical stories, like “Son of Celluloid,” “Sex, Death and Starshine,” and “The Yattering and Jack.” My favorites, however, occupy a bizarre in-between of philosophical fantasy and horror: “In the Hills, the Cities,” “Dread,” “The Skins of the Fathers” and “Jacqueline Ess: Her Will and Testament” are the best examples. Here, Barker creates a space in which reality bends, then shatters altogether, questioning the nature of humanity itself.

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In the latter stories especially, the human body becomes an almost celestial plane of horrors, a conduit for the supernatural and the surreal. It might be acceptable to say that the titular story – “The Book of Blood,” kicking off Volume 1 – lays out Barker’s thesis in this regard: “The dead have highways,” he begins, and ends by showing the dead breaking into our world through those highways, literally engraving their words into a boy’s skin. The flesh of his characters is always so vulnerable, yet powerful, too – Jacqueline Ess uses the power of her sexuality to actually alter men’s anatomies, and an entire town joins together to create a singular giant in “In the Hills.”

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What truly makes me love these stories is the sense of freakishness, of abnormality, that pervades the best of them. Barker infuses his protagonists with an aberrant streak that might make them frightening, but also makes them sympathetic, heartbreakingly so. Those of us who have felt like freaks can find voice in these monsters. It is the power of horror, to find a heart in the most horrific of things, and Barker understands this better than most. His stories find the purest core of horror – no trappings, no undue elegance, just raw blood, terror, and beauty.

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Forbidden Tomes: BOOKS OF BLOOD by Clive Barker, an Introduction

Posted in Forbidden Tomes with tags , , , , , , , , , , , , , , on November 15, 2015 by smuckyproductions

Yesterday, I found something miraculous: a used copy of Clive Barker’s BOOKS OF BLOOD, Vol. 1-3. I’ve been searching for this collection for an unseemly amount of time. And at last, I am able to explore Barker’s infamous world.

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I can’t do a full write-up of the Books of Blood yet because, clearly, I haven’t made it through the whole thing. Barker’s themes and ingenious writing style, however, are apparent from the first page. I hunted for this book for so long because I wanted to see how Barker handles queer theory and ideas within horror fiction. My expectations were met, then surpassed.

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Clive Barker is maybe the first mainstream author to include queer themes in his genre work without dressing them up or disguising them. He openly and brilliantly eviscerates the notions of sinful sex, otherness, and damnation that come along with queer identity. I can’t explain how happy it makes me to find an author who does this, because I still see it so rarely.

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Horror and Gothic are genres that have historically involved queer people – don’t even try to tell me “Frankenstein” and “Dracula” don’t have homoerotic subtexts – but rarely has this been talked about in the open. I believe it’s time to celebrate queer identity in horror. Clive Barker is certainly a way to start.

Stay tuned for a more in-depth analysis of the Books of Blood, as well as the LGBT themes of horror.