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The Essential Clive Barker: Selected Fiction

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"I wonder if the reverse is not also in some way true. That the artist is constantly working on anelaborate and fantasticated self-portrait, but at the end has drawn, unbeknownst, a picture of the world." -- Clive Barker, "Private An Introduction" Clive Barker, award-winning and New York Times bestselling author, playwright, artist, producer, director, screenwriter, and one of the world's master storytellers, writing in the haunting and moving traditions of Poe and Dickens, invites us to join him on a dazzling, wondrous journey through the worlds of his imagination and to experience visions, dreams, love, terror, heaven and hell, and revenge. As we read, we discover and explore the dream-sea Quiddity and the islands of Ephemeris; the five Dominions of the Imajica, of which the Earth is but an imperfect facet; the rapturous world woven into an ancient, threadbare carpet in a derelict house in Liverpool; Hood's Holiday House where each day contains four seasons and children's wishes may come true; the Sky Room of Galilee, where the creation of the universe may be witnessed; and the clubs and bars of San Francisco and New York, in which all manner of sexual adventures lie in wait. In these stories, the real and the miraculous are within a breath of one another, life gives way to death, and death to life; doorways open into other states of existence, and each doorway leads us back to our own dreams and fears. The Essential Clive Barker is an irresistible narrative compendium that superbly represents the impressive quality and range of Barker's fiction, spanning more than twenty years of writing. It contains more than seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories, all personally selected by Barker, and offers a privileged insight into a remarkable writer and his art.

608 pages, Hardcover

First published January 1, 1999

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About the author

Clive Barker

702 books13.3k followers
Clive Barker was born in Liverpool, England, the son of Joan Rubie (née Revill), a painter and school welfare officer, and Leonard Barker, a personnel director for an industrial relations firm. Educated at Dovedale Primary School and Quarry Bank High School, he studied English and Philosophy at Liverpool University and his picture now hangs in the entrance hallway to the Philosophy Department. It was in Liverpool in 1975 that he met his first partner, John Gregson, with whom he lived until 1986. Barker's second long-term relationship, with photographer David Armstrong, ended in 2009.

In 2003, Clive Barker received The Davidson/Valentini Award at the 15th GLAAD Media Awards. This award is presented "to an openly lesbian, gay, bisexual or transgender individual who has made a significant difference in promoting equal rights for any of those communities". While Barker is critical of organized religion, he has stated that he is a believer in both God and the afterlife, and that the Bible influences his work.

Fans have noticed of late that Barker's voice has become gravelly and coarse. He says in a December 2008 online interview that this is due to polyps in his throat which were so severe that a doctor told him he was taking in ten percent of the air he was supposed to have been getting. He has had two surgeries to remove them and believes his resultant voice is an improvement over how it was prior to the surgeries. He said he did not have cancer and has given up cigars. On August 27, 2010, Barker underwent surgery yet again to remove new polyp growths from his throat. In early February 2012 Barker fell into a coma after a dentist visit led to blood poisoning. Barker remained in a coma for eleven days but eventually came out of it. Fans were notified on his Twitter page about some of the experience and that Barker was recovering after the ordeal, but left with many strange visions.

Barker is one of the leading authors of contemporary horror/fantasy, writing in the horror genre early in his career, mostly in the form of short stories (collected in Books of Blood 1 – 6), and the Faustian novel The Damnation Game (1985). Later he moved towards modern-day fantasy and urban fantasy with horror elements in Weaveworld (1987), The Great and Secret Show (1989), the world-spanning Imajica (1991) and Sacrament (1996), bringing in the deeper, richer concepts of reality, the nature of the mind and dreams, and the power of words and memories.

Barker has a keen interest in movie production, although his films have received mixed receptions. He wrote the screenplays for Underworld (aka Transmutations – 1985) and Rawhead Rex (1986), both directed by George Pavlou. Displeased by how his material was handled, he moved to directing with Hellraiser (1987), based on his novella The Hellbound Heart. His early movies, the shorts The Forbidden and Salome, are experimental art movies with surrealist elements, which have been re-released together to moderate critical acclaim. After his film Nightbreed (Cabal), which was widely considered to be a flop, Barker returned to write and direct Lord of Illusions. Barker was an executive producer of the film Gods and Monsters, which received major critical acclaim.

Barker is a prolific visual artist working in a variety of media, often illustrating his own books. His paintings have been seen first on the covers of his official fan club magazine, Dread, published by Fantaco in the early Nineties, as well on the covers of the collections of his plays, Incarnations (1995) and Forms of Heaven (1996), as well as on the second printing of the original UK publications of his Books of Blood series.

A longtime comics fan, Barker achieved his dream of publishing his own superhero books when Marvel Comics launched the Razorline imprint in 1993. Based on detailed premises, titles and lead characters he created specifically for this, the four interrelated titles — set outside the Marvel universe — were Ectokid,

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5 stars
299 (46%)
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192 (29%)
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120 (18%)
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24 (3%)
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9 (1%)
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews
Profile Image for PUMPKINHEAD.
41 reviews13 followers
June 21, 2017
Uhg. I was so torn on this book...

I picked this up on sale because I'm a Clive Barker fan who hasn't really read enough of him in my life, in particular his novels (I'm all over his movies and Books Of Blood short stories though! And the Hellraiser comic book spin-offs I really dig too).

On the one hand, this is a great collection of Clive's various writings, giving you glimpses into a number of the fantastic worlds and characters he's created. Barker's a master of horror fiction and there's a lot in this volume to enjoy and absorb. Definitely tickles your fancy to check out his books in full. For that, I would give it 4-stars.

On the other hand... it's just glimpses you get. It's kind of like listening to a greatest hits album... but you only get to listen to 30-second clips. And to be honest, it also feels like a big rip-off, like this book was some little publicity stunt the publishers put out to try and make more money off the author during a dry spell or something. For that I would give it 2-stars.

So, on average, I'm giving this 3-stars. Great prose and wonderful segments to read, but the experience left me a little unfulfilled and feeling ever so slightly that I might just have been a more-than-willing sucker for buying it because it had the name 'Clive Barker' in big letters on the cover.
Profile Image for Geert Daelemans.
296 reviews8 followers
May 30, 2014
A complete rip-off

There are many things wrong with The Essential Clive Barker. For starters, the title is simply incorrect. This book does not give you an overview -or even a hint for that matter- of what Clive Barker is all about. At best it gives you a set of teasers that hopefully will entice you to read the full novels. But why not start by picking up a real novel and explore the craftsmanship of the author yourself. Indeed, a concise version of The Essential Clive Barker should read: close this book, go to the bookstore, buy Imajica and enjoy. If you have never read any of his books, this collection is only going to annoy you to death. Right at the moment you are really getting into the flow of a story, it breaks off and leaves you to crave for more.

So if beginners are not supposed to buy this book, should the avid Clive Barker fan invest some dough in it? Why should he? Any self-respecting fan will own all Clive's books anyway. Ah, but there's a catch, indeed. The Departed, a short story that previously only appeared in The New York Times, gets its book premiere in this tombstone of a collection. Sounds like a rip-off? Well, it definitely is. The only real extra's are Clive Barker's explanations for why he selected these particular stories, but these short interludes do not give you any better insights into the stories themselves. This book was clearly only published because the publishers needed some quick money. Just read the real stuff, you won't regret it.
Profile Image for Wizzard.
73 reviews10 followers
April 19, 2013
Clive Barker made a name for himself in the horror genre. But this book shows his strength in the fantastical: science fiction, fantasy, terror, mythological, even theater, and of course horror. The book is set up very creatively-- instead of arranging by date of publication, excerpts from his various works are arranged by theme: Memory, Body, Terror, Doorways, etc. Definitely makes me want to explore more of his works!
Profile Image for Michael Whetzel.
Author 13 books9 followers
June 7, 2013
Nice overview of Barker's work but it is mostly excerpts from his books. Would rather read the complete works themselves. Only for the hardcore fan.
September 27, 2019
If you love Clive Barker, are familiar with his inventive stories, and would like to see how his words can be extrapolated to fit many important themes of life, I would highly recommend this book. If you have never read or heard of Clive Barker before, I would not start here.

I had never read or heard of Barker before, only vaguely familiar with works like HellRaiser and Candyman. To put it simply, his stories are incredible. The way he makes each world come alive is beautiful and visceral, raw and relatable. But that was the problem for me with this book. I would fall so hard into a story that I wanted it to keep going, to learn what would happen next to the protagonist and his or her narrative. By the time I had be transfixed by Barker's words, the story would end and another story covering the chosen theme would begin.

Other stories that were included were hard for me to get sucked into. When you begin a story like Imajica in the middle, it can be hard (at least for me) to get your bearings and understand everything that is going on, and the importance of its unfolding. Like I said, his stories are amazing, and I would like to read them all. Had I been familiar with his work beforehand, I think I would have like this book much more.
Profile Image for Mark Groenen.
Author 15 books14 followers
April 22, 2020
Imagine, if you will, a greatest hits album. There’s always a slight cynical edge to this concept, as often fans will buy what they already own. However, especially back in the pre-digital days, it does allow for a nice overview the best songs of a band you like and maybe some extra features. This book is somewhat like a greatest hits album. Various snippets of Barker’s books are collected for the reader. They’re loosely themed and have an introduction by Barker. The first introductions were alright, but they got less and less elaborate as the book went on. So what so we have here? Random chapters with little context, of books most of which I read. Barker writes beautifully, and that is why I love his work, but at the end of the day all this ever does is wishing you’d just be reading the actual book, as opposed to a handful of pages. A song on its own works (save for, maybe, some high art concept albums), but the part of a book’s chapter... Not so much. Ultimately I think this is a cynical cash grab and waste of ink and paper.
Profile Image for Sonia.
57 reviews
March 9, 2018
If you have never read anything by Clive Barker and you want to get a feel for his writing, this is an excellent book. However if you want to sink your teeth into a good book, I'd recommend buying one of his novels, or the Books of Blood.
Profile Image for Christopher Allen.
85 reviews2 followers
June 11, 2021
Not really what I thought this book was going to be. Seems to be a collection of snippets out of his other books. This just didn't work for me.
36 reviews
April 6, 2022
Meh. It’s a digest. These are passages taken out of context from his other books. I’d rather read the actual books. Did not finish.
Profile Image for C Jon Tice.
112 reviews3 followers
April 16, 2008
It was a good book for reading passages from his many novels, but without having read all the novels I didn't really follow on some of the themes. I didn't dislike the book but you really have to like his work and read his books to follow along with the themes.
Profile Image for Mario.
8 reviews
December 17, 2013
this was a good christmas gift , i still read it. it's so fun , even the pro pieces.
Profile Image for Jessica Standen.
2 reviews22 followers
March 31, 2017
excerpts . .. I prefer a whole story...but it gave me just enough to want to read the full book.
Displaying 1 - 14 of 14 reviews

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