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Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic: The Authorized Biography Hardcover – July 23, 2002
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Douglas E. Winter, author of Stephen King: The Art of Darkness and editor of two major dark-fiction anthologies (Prime Evil and Revelations), may be the reigning expert on modern horror. If his book Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic is not the definitive biography of that polymathic author-playwright-auteur, it is only because the volume appeared when its subject was still in his late forties.
At 501 pages, plus 50 pages of endnotes and nearly 100 pages of Primary and Secondary Bibliography, The Dark Fantastic is an impressively thorough document. It covers Clive Barker's life from before birth (giving background on his parents, grandparents, and the hometown he shares with the Beatles) through the early years of struggle to his successes as an internationally bestselling author, Hollywood screenwriter-producer-director, and family man. The biography makes it clear that Barker has always had exceptional talent. (The Dark Fantastic includes, as an appendix, a previously unpublished story, written in Barker's early teens, "The Wood on the Hill." This uneven but fully developed fable of hubris is a tale authors twice as old would be proud to have written.)
Readers expecting a tell-all biography will be disappointed. A good portion of The Dark Fantastic is devoted to summaries and assessments of Barker's creations in many media. However, Winter's critical examinations are interesting, sympathetic, and honest. The Dark Fantastic is a must for all Barker fans and all serious scholars of horror and the fantastic. --Cynthia Ward
From Publishers Weekly
Since his advent as the enfant terrible of horror fiction in the 1980s, Clive Barker has adopted nearly as many guises as his polymorphic Nightbreed: novelist, playwright, illustrator, screenwriter, director, producer and actor. Like his restlessly creative career, this comprehensive critical biography is ambitious if a bit unwieldy. Winter takes the same tack he followed in his exemplary Stephen King: The Art of Darkness (1984), interweaving detailed critical study of his subject's work with appreciative biography and cultural critique to fashion a portrait of the artist. The book's structure is dictated by Barker's primary texts in fiction, film and theater. Winter evaluates each in chronological order, as successive steps in Barker's ongoing evolution as an artist of "the fantastique." Though there are many illuminating insights on how Barker's fiction has been shaped by his private life including his childhood in Liverpool, his homosexuality and his love-hate relationship with Hollywood the book's obligatory biographical content reads mostly like an addendum to the critical analysis. Hyperbole is inevitable in some estimations the transgressive tales in Barker's groundbreaking Books of Blood are credited with "redeeming the literature of the dark fantastic from the confines of mass marketing" but Winter's explication of a coherent vision that unifies Barker's work and elevates it above much in the genres to which it is pigeonholed is persuasive and corroborated by an abundance of Barker's own articulate observations ("All horror heals. It opens some wounds and shows you how to close them again"). Barker, who will turn 50 this year, is himself still a work in progress. At the very least, this rewarding book offers an attractively posed snapshot of his creative life to date.
Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information, Inc.
Top customer reviews
The content is great...too bad about the cover....
When I ordered this book it stated that it was as NEW book...but it was not. The dust cover was beat up and torn. The spine was broken...it was not a new book...it wan't even a good used book.
I will not be keeping the book...with Amazon.com I can return for a full refund and without any return shipping cost. I don't know if it was mistakenly put as a New book by accident and was suppose to be a Used book. It did get here quickly and the package was in good condition.
I will try the seller again...it could have been mistakenly listed and I will be glad to give them another opportunity.
Clive Barker has also glimpsed other worlds, but rather than driving him mad, these visions have compelled him to communicate what he has seen to others. This compulsion has led him to express himself in a multiplicity of media, including the sketches he drew as a child (and indeed, throughout his life), the plays he wrote in his twenties, the short stories he penned as he matured, the movies he directed, or even now, in the portraits he paints. It is this impulse that Douglas Winter, a polymath in his own right (lawyer, journalist, editor, author, book critic, public speaker), attempts to chronicle and explicate in The Dark Fantastic.
The book is arranged chronologically, following Barker from his early life in Liverpool, to his years on the London theatre scene, culminating in the present day, where we find him in Hollywood at work on his latest undertaking, the multimedia project known as The Abarat Quartet. Winter seems to have had unrestricted access to his subject and to those around him, as he cites knowledge gained from interviews with Barker and a plethora of Barker's family, friends, lovers, ex-lovers and business partners. Although Winter makes no claim of objectivity, he maintains a respectable distance from his subject, providing valuable insights into both the man and his work. Doing so, he makes a convincing case for Barker's inclusion in the pantheon of the leading creators of fantastic literature.
Perhaps the most important revelations are found near the end of the book, where Barker becomes more comfortable with his sexuality, finding true love with photographer David Armstrong. There also, he deals with the death of his father and his subsequent descent into depression. Barker's latest epiphany is the most fascinating, as he comes to realize that hundreds of paintings, seemingly created at random to combat his depression, all contained common themes, themes that eventually coalesced to form the basis of his Abarat Quartet project. The fact that he unconsciously worked his way towards mental health, even while breaking new barriers, is both inspirational and awe inspiring.
The book's upbeat �ending" (Barker's only fifty as of the publication date) bodes well for the future. Barker, it seems, will continue to receive messages from other realities, filtering them through his artistic sensibilities to make them more palatable to us lesser mortals. We, the audience, merely have to open our minds, experience his work, and learn. By allowing Barker to take us to other worlds, we can more easily absorb the lessons he has to teach us about our own.