Friday, February 24, 2012

The Yattering and Jack

I absolutely loved The Yattering and Jack. 

This is one of my favorite Barker stories. I’ve even had my children read it. 
Like a lot of Barker stories, he does the head hopping thing, but that has never really bothered me. I generally know what thoughts belong to what character, and so I actually think it ends up enhancing the story rather than detracting from it. A lot of people feel that one strong POV is very important, but if Barker had gone that route with this, we would have missed so much of the cheeky nuances that make this story so good! The Yattering just strengthens my belief that the whole “one point of view per scene” theory should be looked on as more of a guideline than a rule, and before labeling the use of "multiple POV per scene" wrong in a manuscript, it should first be proven distracting or confusing. If it works, let it work. 

In the case of the The Yattering and Jack, it definitely works. I didn’t feel too distanced from either character, and I felt I got to know both of them a whole lot better this way. It was a very intimate POV, head hopping or no.

Despite popping off a few kitty cats, the yattering is kinda adorable -- like an abused and wild child. The poor critter literally doesn’t know any better (he doesn’t even know who his enemy is or have any idea of the concept of heaven). Honestly, matching this naive creature up against an adversary who knows what’s going on and knows the rules was just unfair to the little guy.

Jack as the “hero” was just utterly entertaining. Yes, I know a lot of people found him boring, but even before I knew he was in on the game with Yattering, I loved how disgustingly nonchalant and calm he was.  Toothpaste on the toilet. Meh. Cats blowing up. Meh. Homicidal turkey chasing them around the house. Hmm, must have been something in that stuffing. The man was very clever and very composed right to the end, and to me that seems to imply real power and confidence. Out of a pickle salesman, no less. 

If I wasn’t already in love with Jack, his smile, as he’s fighting to get out the door, won me over completely. It was so brilliantly illustrated, so close to unhinged, that you get the impression that both Jack and Yattering are tiptoeing on the precipice of going mad, and it’s a race to see which one will crack first. 

Unbolted. Bolted. Unbolted. Bolted.
Gina was standing two or three yards behind her father. She didn’t understand what she was seeing, but it was obvious her father was doing battle with someone, or something.
‘Daddy —‘ she began.
‘Shut up,’ he said benignly, grinning as he unbolted the door for the seventh time. There was a shiver of lunacy in the grin, it was too wide and too easy.
Inexplicably, she returned the smile. It was grim, but genuine.
Whatever was at issue here, she loved him.

As far as sympathetic monsters go, I think both of these guys worked well. They were engaging, entertaining, and easy to empathize with throughout their journey together. Either way the ending went, no matter who won, you couldn’t help but feel sorry for the other guy and be proud of the winner. This is a story I have already recommended to many people in the past and would still recommend it as an example of classic Barker.

It even inspired me out outline a potential Erotic Romance based on the concept. Just my little contribution to the neutering of monsters. :)


Kathleen Calhoun said...

This is one of my favorites also. I collected all of the books in my very early teens. It has been years since I read this story and I still remember it. Like Neverland, by Douglas Clegg, these are some of the stories that stuck with me from my childhood. Love!

Jennifer Loring said...

Barker is one of the few writers who can do the head-hopping thing effectively. I don't even dare try it.

The Yattering really is kind of cute, for a demon, anyway, and it's hard not to sympathize. You've piqued my curiosity with your erotic romance idea!

Rhonda JJ said...

I want to read that romance. I thought it was hilarious that Jack was a pickle man. I know someone has to do that job, but, really?

S. J. Lyon said...

I agree completely about this little story. For horror, it's downright endearing. Ordinarily, writers lose me at the offing of pets--must be something about the creatures' dependent and wholehearted trust--but even that didn't bother me, here. I did find Jack difficult to relate to for the first half or so, but afterward, he became downright fascinating, the sort of character about whom I would have liked to see prequel stories.