The Yattering, in "The Yattering and Jack," is a fun monster, and I liked it more than the monster in "Rawhead Rex". It's making me consider reading other works by Clive Barker, unlike the last story. The only thing I am still having trouble with is Barker's frequent use of head-hopping.
A poor lesser demon, that's all the Yattering is, instructed to do his job whether he wants to or not--a lot of people can relate to that situation. He's supposed to make Jack Polo go insane to pay a debt owed by his mother (see, they owned her soul, but she snuck out of the deal). The problem is, Polo seems imperturbable. Anything the Yattering does is brushed off. We feel the demon's frustration at failure after failure. "The Yattering wept. The Yattering screamed. In a fit of uncontrollable anguish, it boiled the water in the aquarium, poaching the guppies. Polo heard nothing. Saw nothing" (46). Throughout some of his failed pranks, I could just see him shaking his little fists in the air in my mind.
We are solidly in the Yattering's point of view at the beginning. I had no problem with this, and I actually enjoyed it. There would have been no other way to hook the reader with the demon's feelings of being trapped--Polo's house is his prison until he completes his job. Eight pages into the story, though, after the Yattering had killed three cats (one went into the fire, another was drowned, and the third exploded into little bits), there is an abrupt shift from the demon's point of view to Jack Polo's. Since I was a third of the way into the story, the shift pulled me right out of the tale. I had to reread that transition, and several subsequent passages with point of view hops, over a couple of times to get a handle on what was happening. At first I thought it would have been better to have the entire story in the Yattering's head, but then we wouldn't have seen how manipulative Polo actually was--he was wise to the demon's goal, and determined not to let him win. So, Polo's viewpoint was necessary, but the way Barker has the shifts was unsettling, and it didn't help me stay deep in the story.
Polo's two daughters come home for the holidays, and this is when the Yattering ramps up his tricks. Instead of succeeding, though, he grows impatient, and breaks two cardinal rules in the end--he leaves the house and he touches Polo. Now he has to suffer as Polo's servant for the rest of his existence. It was a nice twist at the end, but there was one thing that left me wondering. Polo and his daughter Gina pretty much escape the encounter unscathed, but Amanda does not. "Then he met the vacant look in her eyes and the truth dawned. She'd broken, her sanity had taken refuge where the fantastique couldn't get at it" (59). This was the very thing the Yattering had been aiming for with Jack. Now, we don't see if she ever comes out of it at the end. I wondered, if the demons wanted Jack's soul via the route of insanity in place of his mother's, wouldn't a granddaughter's soul be just as good as a son's? Does the Yattering actually succeed at his job by breaking Amanda's mind? It seems silly if the higher demons would only think of Jack's soul as a good enough replacement. I'm not saying it's a flaw of the story or anything, simply that it was something I considered after it all soaked in.
Overall, this was a fun read, and I loved the quirky monster. The Yattering's personality was great, and he was a well-rounded character. Do I read more Clive Barker now? We'll see.
Barker, Clive. "The Yattering and Jack." Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1998. 43-64.