Clive on The Essential Clive Barker

"The whole notion of this book was to go to my books and plays, short stories etc, and choose the material that I felt was the most essential. I've written about a twelve thousand word introduction in which I try to trace my approach to writing and to offer some insight. "I have divided the book into thirteen chapters, each of which is devoted to different areas, [a] sort of doorway. The idea is that if you want to read the book from beginning to end, hopefully it will be elegantly constructed so you may do so. On the other hand, if you want to sit in the bath and read three or four pieces, you can do that as well. What I found out about my writing is that I tell stories within stories. What I've been able to do very often in this book is pluck stories out from within stories; short stories that were embedded inside novels in a way. I think it's going to be a real pleasure to read."


By [Stephen Dressler and Cheryl Bentzen], Lost Souls, Volume 2, No 1, April 1999

"There was some debate about how we should organise the book. I was keen that the excerpts should be self-contained and justify themselves within themselves. So I took all the books away on vacation to Hawaii and looked at everything. Essentially, it's those things that went into the act of why I write that were selected.
"Surprisingly, when I went back over the books I found there really wasn't that much horror, which I've been claiming of my writing for a while. I was surprised at how few 'special effects' there were and how much the books were to do with human beings. There's also a strangeness to some of the writing. I'm talking about books like Weaveworld where characters step through into other worlds. You often write these stories in a fugue state where these lands just rise up in front of you and you describe them. I haven't been back to these lands in a long time. It was a pleasurable experience."

Renaissance Man

By [ ], The Scotsman, 21 September 1999

"I went to Kaua'i, which is an island in Hawaii and I sat in a house beside the beach and I read everything. And I went through it all very slowly and I asked myself in a quiet time, 'What are the most important things for me?' These are my choices, these are my personal visions of what Clive Barker has done which is worthwhile. And then I wrote this big essay trying to pull it all together to give people an idea of my obsessions. I think it's a book which catalogues my obsessions... "You get to a place sometimes where you think something is genius and you look back on it and you think, 'Oh that's not so good.' And the reverse happens; something at the time you didn't think was great and when you come and you look at it again you think, 'Oh that was OK.' If, in twenty years' time we look at this interview, we're going to say, 'Oh, that's who we were,' and in a way that's what it felt like looking at the books and trying to make choices from them. It was a question of saying, 'Well, who was I twenty years ago?'"

Fantasy Man

By Liza Tarbuck, Channel 4 Big Breakfast, 24 September 1999

"I have 20 books to choose from, obviously I wasn't going to be able to put all that stuff down. In The Hills, The Cities I chose because it was... because it's a story I get a huge amount of letters about. It's a story that really found its way into people's heads. People talk about it a lot and - because I think it creates in those two cities, in the giants, an image which people haven't seen before, and so it seemed to me to be important. The Forbidden I chose because I actually love the story, and it doesn't hurt that it's Candyman, and actually I think it's a very strong piece of storytelling and it's also about story - so it had that sort of double resonance - it was actually about the mechanisms of stories and why we tell dark stories. So it seemed self-reflecting in that sense. And I think if I was to characterise the material in any way and say, 'Well, what are the things which have made me make these choices as opposed to other choices?', I would say that self-reflective or meditative tone is one which clearly marks the collection out. I think I've chosen, by and large, things which are perhaps more meditative in tone than I would have done, say, five years ago. And I've actually written some more since then, I mean the passages from Galilee. Both Galilee and Sacrament are more meditative in tone and more philosophical in tone and more willing to indulge in digressions in service of metaphysics than previous books. There's metaphysics in Weaveworld but it's pretty much subsumed. Sacrament, by contrast, is a much more economical piece of writing - it's character-driven, it's very strongly character-driven, and so is Galilee, actually. I mean Galilee is about character and story and the idea of story itself. Packed with digressions of course - the Zelim section fom that book is, arguably - could be - lifted in its entirety. And that's what I did, that's how I put it into The Essential and I loved it like that."

Leitmotifs And Dark Beliefs

By Phil & Sarah Stokes, London, 24 September 1999(note: full text here)

"It was very much about making a book which would in a way introduce new readers to the range of what I'm up to, the horror fiction, obviously, the fantasy fiction, the stuff for kids, and maybe indicating for readers who are already familiar with my stuff, the work that I really like. So it was a way of sort of saying 'Look, this is the stuff I really enjoy. This is, as far as I'm concerned, the cream of the crop where my writing is concerned.' And obviously there's gonna be disagreement there. There's gonna be people who are gonna say that they prefer one piece over another. And even I would say that there are absentees from the book. There are things that I would have liked to have seen in there, which we didn't have, room for. But nevertheless it's a broadstroke introduction to Clive Barker and it seems to be functioning well that way. "It's the sort of the mid-career retrospective, if this was a painting analogy. It's something that says 'This is the stuff which I like. This is the stuff I'd like to be judged on so far.' And more important than that, 'Here's an introduction to the books for people who are perhaps not familiar with various aspects of my work. Here's teasers and tasters."

Clive Barker (Part Two)

By Spence D, IGN For Men, 20 December 1999

"The Essential was designed for two purposes. For people who are not at all familiar with my work, it was created as a kind of best of Clive Barker. In it I have assembled 70 pieces of prose, some from short stories, some from novels, and a few from my plays. They represent a wide cross section of genres. There's very dark horror material here. There's erotic material here. There are passages from The Thief Of Always here. And there's wild fantasy here. I've prefaced many of the passages with short illuminations about their thematic content, but the real meat of the book is a 12,000-word introduction, which I wrote to talk about a host of subjects that I hope will be interesting to my readers. Here I talk about my working processes and the roots of my creative energy. I also talk about certain events in my childhood - not all of them pleasant - that helped define me as a writer. I hope, then, that the introduction will illuminate for readers who are familiar with my work new elements in the books. I hope, very much, that you enjoy The Essential."

Online Appearance at Barnes & Noble

Transcript of an online appearance at Barnes & Noble's site, 15 December 1999

"It gives you that thing that all artists need at some point, a sense of achievement. The book had been proposed at HarperCollins a while ago, and I had thought it would be simple to put together... Wrong!
"In January I took all the books, just David and myself, to Kauai. And I went through it all to try and see what was essential. Of course, in your natural arrogance, you believe everything is essential. But when you look at it, you see there are a lot of themes you return to because they answer some deep psychological need. So I was able to see thematic material.
"I think that it is very important that we as artists accept that your voice changes. What I've learned at the age of 47 is that many of the things I did not like about the work from an earlier time... I look back and think, Jeez, I fucked up that one, didn't I? But sometimes it's really just about putting it out there. I think it's important to be at peace with that. So when I look at The Essential Clive Barker, I look at a lot of work that is very remote from who I am now but also feels, in the nicest way, like a sort of memory of some other fellow I knew once and liked in some ways and disliked in other ways... [I don't miss him.] And one reason I don't is because he wrote those stories and served his purpose. Part of what allows me to move on is to look back and say, 'I enjoyed that, but I don't want to do that anymore.' I'm infinitely happier than that dark, brooding, and sometimes lonely fellow."

The Many Lives Of Clive

By Christopher Landon, The Advocate, 18 January 2000

...other comments

"In this collection of his work, Clive Barker takes the reader on a personal tour through the dark and fantastic land of his imagination."

Essential Clive Barker

On-line blurb at The Book Pl@ce, July 1999

"The Essential Clive Barker is a veritable treasurehouse of fiction, containing over seventy excerpts from novels and plays and four full-length short stories, all personally selected by the author. It represents a vigorous and flourishing writing career that spans more than twenty years of work, and offers a privileged insight into a remarkable writer and his art."

Essential Clive Barker

HarperCollins UK presskit, August 1999

The Essential bibliography...

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