By Catherine Wagley
By Channing Sargent
By L.A. Weekly critics
By Amanda Lewis
By Catherine Wagley
By Carol Cheh
By Keegan Hamilton
By Bill Raden
I was also thinking about your last novel,Sacrament. I wonder what will happen if the Christian types get wind of that. It might be your least quote-unquote horrific novel, but the gay sex in there is pretty unflinching. I mean it didn’t shock me, but . . .
[Laughs.] Yes, I don’t imagine it would have. You know Sacramentsold about 50 percent of what my other books have sold.
Really? Because it was so gay?
Yeah. It’s interesting to me that the numbers haven’t been as strong on that book. You can go online and very easily find pods of very dedicated Clive Barker fans who really object to that novel. There’s almost an audible sigh from those pages. They say, “Well, I suppose he had to get it out of his system,” and that kind of thing. There are scenes in that book that are really strong sexually. It’s not a gentle introduction to gay sex. But I always need to write the most intense thing I’ve ever written, whatever the subject matter.
Does it frustrate you that your books tend to be marginalized or condescended to by the literary establishment? You’re not the only important writer to be denied a place in the canon, but you’re a glaring example. Your popularity and your influence on culture are undeniable, yet it’s hard to imagine that, say,The New York Times Book Review or the New York Review of Books et al. will ever acknowledge your work’s significance.
That used to bother me a whole heap, but now I figure that there’s an anti-canon falling into place. The likes of our work is in it. I think what we have to realize is that the scope of literature is changing again. I think the charge of my work is its saving grace, and it’s also the problem for mainstream literature. If you look at the Booker Prize and all that, there’s a lot of little old lady and Oprah’s Choice literature out there. My heroes, like Bosch and Goya and Poe, are to some extent still marginalized. I’m not sure I would like it if it were any other way. The alternative is that this stuff be embraced.
Which would make you cringe?
God, yes. I’d think, “What have I done wrong now?” Besides, being marginalized creates passion in my fans and makes me feel very loyal to them. I believe very strongly — for myself, and for you as well — that there will be a reassessment of what the old canon was. For example, you know there was this incredible hue and cry last year when the British public was polled and asked to name the most important book of the century, and the winner by a vast margin was The Lord of the Rings. That entertained the hell out of me. So you had all these literary types saying, “No, no, no, you can’t have this in my canon. I refuse.” The fact of the matter is that our books are being read by far more influential minds than the books of writers who are being properly positioned by their publishers and by the reviewers they sleep with. Fuck the canon.
You never worry, “What if they’re right and I’m wrong?”
One of the things I’ve learned as an artist, as my life has gone on, is to stop saying “right” or “wrong.” My behavior pattern has been to do whatever I wanted to do, and deal with the consequences afterwards. In fiscal terms, the consequences have been negative more than positive. There were a lot of decisions I could have made which my bank manager says I should have made. But I just couldn’t, because I felt like a prisoner.
A prisoner of Pinhead?
Yes. Of Hellraiser, for instance, and the phenomenon it inspired. But I’ve actually escaped quite well. And after “Abarat” comes out, I think the rest of that will go down in the dust. And I don’t think I’ll direct any more films. They’re too time-consuming. I’m 48. My dad was 73 when he died, and my granddad was 63. The Barker men don’t tend to last long, and there are all sorts of projects I want to do in what time I have. Like I have a huge metaphysical book in my head.
À la Weaveworld or . . . ?
It will make Weaveworld look like Nancy Drew. A huge, huge, huge metaphysical book. I want to investigate the erotic at its most profound, in forms that I think we possibly begin to see in Burroughs, but which haven’t been pursued as a consistent thesis. We’re talking my Bible. I want to write the Bible. [Laughter.] So there’s a lot to do.