Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic: The Authorized Biography


Clive Barker: a modern myth-maker, explorer of our darkest instincts and ultimate fears, the writer who — more than any other contemporary figure — has shaped our nightmares through diverse media. Novelist, playwright, scriptwriter, artist and director, he is a master at twisting the mundane to make it fantastic, frightening and ultimately meaningful.

Douglas E. Winter's detailed and highly literate biography, made possible by unprecedented access to Barker and his closest ...

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Clive Barker: a modern myth-maker, explorer of our darkest instincts and ultimate fears, the writer who — more than any other contemporary figure — has shaped our nightmares through diverse media. Novelist, playwright, scriptwriter, artist and director, he is a master at twisting the mundane to make it fantastic, frightening and ultimately meaningful.

Douglas E. Winter's detailed and highly literate biography, made possible by unprecedented access to Barker and his closest friends and family, offers readers a privileged insight into Barker's own story: his Liverpool childhood and adolescence; his forays into the world of theatre, mime and direction; his meteoric rise to fame as the author of the Books of Blood and Weaveworld, and the director of Hellraiser; his move to Hollywood to pursue a film career and his growth as an artist in many different media, which has taken him from theatre — the first form of human expression — into the digital age.

Interwoven with this revealing and personal journey into Barker's life is a grand tour through all of his fiction and film, from his earliest unpublished work — including the short story "The Wood on the Hill," which is published here for the first time — up to his most recent novel, Coldheart Canyon and beyond, giving a tantalising glimpse of things to come.

Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic unlocks the beating heart of a polymath, a creator, a true artist, and reveals at last a man with one of the twentieth century's most phenomenal imaginations, and the vision to lead us on many strange and fabulous journeys in the years ahead.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
The Barnes & Noble Review
Douglas E. Winter's Clive Barker: The Dark Fantastic is a detailed, admittedly partisan assessment of a protean career that has encompassed theater, films, painting, and an astonishing variety of fiction. An effective hybrid of traditional biography, oral history, and literary analysis, The Dark Fantastic follows Barker from his supremely normal Liverpool childhood through his post-university career in fringe theater to his eventual success as a short story writer (The Books of Blood), novelist (Weaveworld, Imajica), and filmmaker (the Hellraiser series). Winter documents Barker's constantly evolving aesthetic in a series of closely reasoned chapters that illuminate the deepest concerns of Barker's idiosyncratic fictions and locate the points of intersection between his life and his work. Winter's analyses are invariably acute and his assessments uniformly generous, though never entirely uncritical.

The Dark Fantastic succeeds as a closely observed account of the evolution of an artist, and as a cogent explication of Baker's dominant -- and recurring -- themes. Among the central notions Winter isolates and explores are Barker's ongoing fascination with the Faustian myth, his lifelong affinity for the monstrous and grotesque, and his belief in the need for a reconciliation of opposing forces: flesh and spirit, reality and dream, the magical and the mundane. The result is a vital, deeply considered look at one of the most potent imaginations of recent years. Bill Sheehan

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. (July) FYI: "The Wood on the Hill," an unpublished tale from Barker's teenage years, is included as an appendix. Nonfiction Notes Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Library Journal
Clive Barker enjoys cult-figure status on today's literary horror scene. His "adrenalin stories" are highly visual, darkly imaginative tales full of violence and sexuality meant not to terrify "but to excite." This book, written by a friend and editor, traces Barker's journey from bullied Liverpool schoolchild to today's master of popular fiction and film. Winter traces Barker's retreat to the world of imagination and his passion for Marvel comics, which ignited a love of drawing, early stage experiments with neo-Grand Guignol entertainments, and then increasing success in short stories, novels, and films. Barker discusses his writing methods and defines differences between his body of work and that of Stephen King (King writes "healing stories," while Barker does not). Barker also reveals what terrifies him ("Absence ... the worst monster in the world is better than a blank space, to my mind"). He's comfortable in his identity as a gay man, though he admits that the gay scene doesn't attract him. Barker enjoys the collaborative process of moviemaking but declares it an "indulgence," a distant second to the pleasure of writing. His fans will rejoice in the wealth of biographical and critical material to be found here, but others may find the book overlong and the author's tone overly effusive. Still, this is easily the most comprehensive study available of Barker, and as such it's recommended for college and public libraries. Stephen Rees, Levittown Regional Lib., PA Copyright 2002 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
Giant critical biography of horror novelist Barker, covering his vast body of work and quoting the subject about his family, his interior life, his joys, his depressions, and, briefly, his lovers. Anthologist and novelist Winter (Run, 2000, etc.) calls Liverpudlian dark fantasist Barker "a polymath of the perverse-an artist who was willfully determined not to fulfill expectation." In addition to his fiction, Barker's bedeviled muse has led him into storytelling as actor, puppeteer, playwright, and painter; he's created films, comic books, graphic novels, and a spooky computer role-playing game. He also hopes to build a next-generation Internet entertainment complex to be called Primordium. This relentless poly-creativity-"bizarrely free of intellectual effort," Barker admits-has led him recently to put aside questioning his past work and simply move onward. He relocated to Hollywood, but after writing and directing the grisly Hellraiser, he sank into time-consuming Tinseltown and TV fantasy projects for which he often failed to find backers. Smoothly done. Fans should love it-and why not?
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780066213927
  • Publisher: HarperCollins Publishers
  • Publication date: 8/28/2002
  • Edition description: 1ST
  • Pages: 688
  • Product dimensions: 6.52 (w) x 9.56 (h) x 1.56 (d)

Meet the Author

Douglas E. Winter has been hailed as "the conscience of horror and dark fantasy." His books include the critically acclaimed novel Run; the anthologies Prime Evil and Revelations; and the authorized biography Stephen King: The Heart of Darkness. An attorney with the internationally based law firm Bryan Cave LLP, Mr. Winter is a member of the National Book Critics Circle. He lives near Washington, D.C.

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Table of Contents

Foreword ix
1 The Pool of Life 1
2 Oakdale Road 10
3 In a Lonely Place 26
4 Quarry Bank 39
5 The Company of Dreamers 54
6 Hydra Rising 64
7 London Calling 88
8 Dog Days 113
9 The Play's the Thing 128
10 After the Danse 144
11 First Blood 157
12 Nowhere Land 172
13 The New Flesh 188
14 Into the Abyss 206
15 Raw Celluloid 218
16 Secret Lives 230
17 Hellbound 246
18 Raising Hell 258
19 Filigree and Shadow 275
20 A Breed Apart 291
21 God's Monkey 304
22 The Bastard Child 317
23 And Death Shall Have No Dominion 329
24 The Serpent's Tail 343
25 Forbidden Candy 362
26 Finding a Religion 380
27 Love and the Devil 395
28 Extinction 411
29 Ancient of Days 424
30 Redemption 443
31 Of Gods and Monsters 454
32 Stories of Our Own 466
For Ever More 486
Appendix 'The Wood on the Hill' 503
Notes 514
Primary Bibliography 556
Secondary Bibliography 606
Resources 645
Index 647
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