I read Human Remains by Clive Barker so long ago I’d forgotten everything about the story except that the protagonist was gay and a prostitute. This was so not the sort of story my family would have approved of me reading, and I remember it being in one of the many books that I secretly removed the cover and then replaced it with a cover from The Baby Sitters Club (not like I was reading those anyway). I did this with so many of my favorite books and read them so often that my grandparents got me a monthly subscription, and I had tons of Baby Sitter’s books lining the front of the bookshelves that…I never bothered to so much as crack open.
Unless I was doing a book cover vivisection, of course.
To me, Human Remains was written in a much cleaner and intimate way than the other two Barker selections we read this term. It wasn’t nearly as raw and dirty as the other two, but still has a very free and lyrical quality to it. Just like in the last two, Barker head hops a bit, but I am sure most readers would find this a good deal less jarring than it was in Rawhead—it was accomplished much more smoothly.
Unlike the other two selections, and despite the main character of Human Remains being a bit preoccupied with beauty and ageing, I found him to be really sympathetic and likable. I really think he finds so much about himself as failed and unaccomplished, and he clings to the one thing he has as long as he has it—his looks. I can relate to that in a lot of ways, the feelings of inadequacy and having a very limited skill set of any value (not to mention a serious ticking clock on how long I’ll be able to make use of it).
The “monster” itself I found incredibly adorable. I know that probably wasn’t the intention, and rather the author was probably just going for sympathetic, but I really felt for the thing. All it wanted was to live, and really, anything that can take so much glee in the ability to yawn and pass gas comes across as very childlike and…adorable. I found myself sort of rooting for it, hoping it would achieve real life outside of simple imitation. If this was contingent on Gavin losing his life, I would have been more conflicted.
I don’t think it was made very clear (at least not to me) that only one or the other could live. At times it seemed like the monster was sapping the spirit and very life essence from Gavin, and other times it just seemed the creature was forming independently. Still, I could see where the “horror” in the story presents itself. It’s sort of a “Single White Female” issue, the idea of something becoming you, and maybe even a better version of you. In the end, Gavin’s monster at least seemed more human than he himself could ever be.