Quote of the Moment

"What's Past Is Prologue." - William Shakespeare

Friday, October 01, 2010

Frustrated Demon - "The Yattering and Jack"

SPOILER ALERT! If you have not read "The Yattering and Jack" there are spoilers in this essay.

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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.

Works Cited

Barker, Clive. "The Yattering and Jack." Books of Blood: Volumes One to Three. New York: Penguin Putnam Inc., 1998. 43-64.


  1. I had the same issue with POV. I thought he did a better job with it this time than in "Rawhead Rex," but it still sucked.

    Unfortunately, his clumsy POV handling seems to be part of his "charm." That's three stories of his I've read where his POV shift has yanked me out of the story. Where the heck is his editor? Someone needs to be flogged here.

  2. Yes, yes read more Barker!! :)

    But I understand what you were saying about the POV in the story, for it confused me too. I'm not sure what the correction for be for a better transition, since both of their viewpoints are extremely necessary to the story...Hmmmm...

    I did love the Yattering though..Have you looked up images of him at all? I have the graphic novel version of this story and his depiction is just to quirky, and cool haha!

  3. I really like Barker, though he rarely frightens me. His characters are fun and interesting, and it's generally a good ride in the stories I've read. He's yet to scare me, though, and I've come to believe he isn't really trying to. Either that or I'm missing the point.

    The POV switches get to me, too. I like that we ultimately got both Jack's and the Yattering's thoughts, but I needed a stronger transition.

  4. I'm in the decided minority here, but Barker's head-hopping doesn't bother me. Normally, I like a tight p.o.v., but Barker's such a smooth storyteller that his switches work for me.

    This course has all but been an introduction to Barker for me, too, and I definitely plan on reading more. On Scott's recommendation, I read THE HELLBOUND HEART, the novella on which HELLRAISER was based. I loved it. If you'd like to give it a try, it's easy to find. I found it in both the library and the bookstore. Enjoy!

  5. Stephanie - no I haven't searched for any images of the Yattering. I tend to prefer what I create in my own mind as I'm reading, so I don't ever actually think to look for what creatures or characters may look like to others. ;)

  6. I think this story is a good example of how humans can also become monsters in this type of story. Look at how Jack is willing to put everyone in harms way only to enslave a demon.