Friday, February 27, 2015

My take on "The Yattering and Jack" by Clive Barker

A moment’s preamble:  In June of 2014 I began graduate school at Seton Hill seeking an MFA in Writing Popular Fiction. This term I’m enrolled in a course that focuses on MONSTERS, and as a part of that course I’ll blog on each book/story/movie covered.

I'll break each review down into 4 parts: Strength of Character, Genre potency, Poignancy of themes, and Entertainment Value. For each of these I will assign a letter grade. My reviews will contain **SPOILERS**
The Yattering and Jack is a short story from Clive Barker’s Books of Blood. It follows the efforts of a lesser demon, Yattering, as he tries to drive a man named Jack Polo insane through all manners of trickery. Jack Polo seems oblivious, but is actually playing a game of his own.

Strength of Character: B

The Yattering is just a lesser demon trying to get ahead in a greater-demon kind of world. The poor little imp is twisted and evil, to be sure, but he reminds us all of being ground under the boot heel of bureaucracy. At least we don’t work for Beezlebub, the Lord of Flies. Well, maybe some of us do?

Jack is more enigmatic, a man with a secret. He pretends to have a dull, cheerful, and oblivious outlook. He is actually manipulating poor Yattering into committing a demon-sin and forfeiting his freedom. I didn’t get much of a feel for Jack or his daughters, but the real story is about Yattering anyway. I liked the little guy, and I found him to very well-drawn from a craft standpoint.

Don't do it, Yattering!
Genre Strength: B-

Similar to my earlier review of “The Funeral” by Matheson, this story is pointedly comic, with only the window dressings of horror. It makes it difficult for me to rate from a genre effectiveness standpoint, other than to say it is nice to get a break from the dreariness of reading constant horror. It was an amusing piece, and one I would recommend to someone curious about horror but lacking the stomach for the truly macabre. I suppose Yattering killing those cats was pretty horrifying, no matter how you look at it.

Thematic Poignancy: C

This story didn’t have an overabundance of thematic depth, in my opinion, and that’s fine with me. It was just a lark about a poor demon, an experiment in whether or not the reader could find it within himself to root for something unabashedly evil. I think it succeeded in that regard, and perhaps could teach us something about empathy for the little guy superseding what other misgivings you might have.

Entertainment Value: B

This was a nice tale, and well written. It made us laugh, made us question, even made us think a little. I think it was the perfect length, as I expect something overlong would wear on the reader as Yattering eventually does on Jack. I like the turn at the end, when we discover just what Jack has been about all along: capturing himself a demon-servant. And who can’t get behind that?

Random Notes and Final Grade: B-

*I was left wondering whether or not one Jack’s daughters had truly been driven mad. If so, points to Yattering.

*That animated turkey bit was a delight. It flew around spraying gravy, guys. I hope Beezlebub was proud.

*Clive Barker’s penchant for headhopping worked a little less fluidly here, by my estimation, as it took me longer to adjust to the occasionally abrupt POV switching.


  1. I was a bit concerned about the daughter, as well. When Jack and the Yattering turn to go back into the house, where are the daughters? Weren't they left on the stoop?

    Also, how is it that Barker can headhop but that's so taboo for everyone else to do? Seems that he does that a bit in his work.

  2. Barker can headhop because he's Barker and a badass. We're just amateurs until we get super famous...then everyone will eat up whatever you write!

    Luke, I liked your analysis and I agree with most of it. I'd say that Yattering was one of my more-favorite stories so far. It's one of the only ones where I felt sympathy for the characters. Good point about the daughters, though. I didn't catch that

  3. I don't think that the cats being killed was all that horrifying....and I'm a cat person. It seemed to me like a shameless plea to work off the readers emotions. Which seems to be something Barker does a lot. In fact, he's quickly becoming someone I don't ever want to read again because he does this over and over. It was the cats in this story and the babies in Rawhead Rex and for me horror is so much more than an obvious attempt to play with the readers emotions.