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The Great and Secret Show (1989)

de Clive Barker

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Sèrie: Book Of The Art (1)

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2,80993,735 (3.86)23
In the little town of Palomo Grove, two great armies are amassing; forces shaped from the hearts and souls of America. In this New York Times bestseller, Barker unveils one of the most ambitious imaginative landscapes in modern fiction, creating a new vocabulary for the age-old battle between good and evil. Carrying its readers from the first stirring of consciousness to a vision of the end of the world, The Great and Secret Show is a breathtaking journey in the company of a master storyteller.… (més)
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I last read The Great and Secret Show by Clive Barker back when I was a teenager. I loved it then. I wasn't sure how I'd react to it as an adult.

I'm happy to report the writing holds up really well. It stands the tests of time and experience. This novel is still staggeringly imaginative, exciting, and moving.

What makes this novel unique—what makes many of Mr. Barker's novels unique—is a narrative structure built on an escalating series of crises and climaxes. The conflict that opens the story would be the climax of an entire novel in the hands of a lesser writer. For Mr. Barker, however, it's just the beginning. Then he ramps up to another conflict and climax, and another, and another—building tension and emotional investment to a fever pitch.

His vision is so sweeping, so huge, so detailed and encompassing, he needs multiple crises and narrative climaxes in order to hold it all and do it justice.

His imagination works on a grander scale than the rest of us. It impresses me as much now as it did when I was younger.

Unfortunately, there's one aspect of The Great and Secret Show that doesn't work for me as an adult:

The love-at-first-sight romance between Howie and Jo-Beth is a lot harder for me to accept this time around.

I know it's supposed to reinforce a sense of Fate that's central to the mysteries of the story, and it's necessary to fuel one of the major conflicts between characters. On that level it works fine.

But Howie's actions demonstrate a painfully adolescent concept of love. I can't find the same emotional power in it that it wielded when I was younger. Indeed, I'm a bit embarrassed to recall how moving their relationship was for me when I was, myself, adolescent.

Mostly, though, as an adult, what I see in Howie now is yet another man who thinks it's romantic to ignore when a woman says no and to bull through every attempt she makes to set limits. Yet another man who's certain that he knows what she wants better than she knows herself. Yet another man whose concept of persistence blurs the line between romance and stalking.

It made me deeply uncomfortable. I suppose, though, I should be impressed that Mr. Barker remembers so clearly what love feels like as a teenager and depicted it so accurately.

Otherwise, I found this book to be just as enjoyable now as it was when I was teenager. It was a most welcome discovery. ( )
  johnthelibrarian | Aug 11, 2020 |
Clive Barker......what can you say? Be prepared to be carried off into his personal little hell and don't make the mistake of expecting him to bring you back. He is not as nice as Koontz. Clive is a Faust of the highest degree. His writing is deep and personal. I honestly think he is a Cenobite. ( )
  Joe73 | Apr 20, 2017 |
To label The Great and Secret Show a horror novel would be to do it a disservice. "Arty horror" would be closer to the mark but that sounds silly and would still be inadequate. “Dark fantasy” sounds good to me though it deemphasizes the horror aspect of it a little too much, may be it is more phantasm than fantasy. Not that labels really matter, a good book is a good book regardless of whatever label you slap on it. I am only going on about it just to have some kind of intro!

To tell you what this book is about is a fairly complicated undertaking (best left to undertakers perhaps). It starts with one Randolph Jaffe’s quest for mastery of “The Art”, not just any old art but a craft or power that has the capability to tear a hole in the fabric of reality and create an opening to another dimension called Quiddity. Quiddity is a mystical dream sea, a sea of the mind that most people visit twice in their lives. “Once the first night you slept out of the womb. The second occasion the night you lay beside the person you loved.” That does not make much sense out of the context of the book so just imagine the weirdest goddamn sea you can and then pile on extra weirdness on top. The Quiddity sea changes you and is generally extremely bad for your complexion:

Credit Gabriel Rodríguez Pérez (from graphic novel adaptation)

Jaffe’s pursuit of the Art leads to his eventually becoming something other than human and triggers a possible supernatural apocalypse that threatens all human lives. What starts out as a man’s quest for power becomes a titanic struggle between good and evil where the battles often takes surreal forms.

Randolph Jaffe (AKA The Jaff). Again credit Gabriel Rodríguez Pérez.

That little synopsis barely scratches the surface of the novel’s plot. The Great and Secret Show is a dark fantasy of epic proportions (though “epic fantasy” has an entire different connotation, usually associated with Tolkien’s or George R.R. Martin’s kind of fantasy). With this book is Clive Barker is at the peak of his creativity, here he has created a brand new mythos about the nature of dreams and reality that is mind blowing. The storyline is quite complex but clearly narrated so there is never any problem following it. Fans of bizarre critters should have a field day with this book which is populated by some very bizarre and often disgusting creatures. For example you know how low budget horror movies from the 80s often feature shitty monsters? This book literally has shitty monsters made from actual fecal matter! There are also various other bizarre creatures made from fear and others made from dreams that I can not even begin to describe.

The book is full of horrific moments, surreal dream-like moments and even comical moments and romantic bits. I would not recommend it to anyone who is easily offended though. If you avert your eyes at Game of Thrones’ most outrageous scenes then leave The Great and Secret Show on the shelf. Barker's prose style is hard to pin down, sometime he takes flight into lyricism, other times he dives into the language of the gutter (he certainly seems to use the “C word” a lot). The multiple protagonists are all well drawn. The most memorable one being the evil Randolph Jaffe (AKA The Jaff) and the kickass heroine Tesla. I am quite impressed by how quickly Barker can introduce and develop characters that are vivid and believable, in a few pages within a single chapter mostly through dialog.

At the end of the day I can whole heartedly recommend The Great and Secret Show to anyone looking for a fantastical – or perhaps phantasmagorical – read. You won’t be disappointed (if you are, you shouldn’t be!). ( )
  apatt | Dec 26, 2015 |
It took me a year to finish this book! Disturbing, long, but undeniably imaginative this is my least favourite of Barker's books I've read to date. I enjoyed aspects of this story, the plot is such that's impossible to summarize, I did try but it was getting so long I gave up. I'm still not sure what exactly happened, but it had it's moments and it's yet another of Barker's book's where the extra-ordinary is just under the surface of everyday life, but he's done it better. ( )
  wifilibrarian | Jun 21, 2015 |
Wish I could give this 3.5/5 but I feel that I should give it a 4 rather than a 3.

Really good writing style, keeps you hooked, amazing dialogue, liked the effect of events being told from various points of view of various characters, and the author knew how to do this effectively.

Felt that the story itself was a bit lacking depth though. Like an episode of Charmed.

Still, fun to read, nice imagery and references throughout the Work ;) ( )
  kibernick | Apr 30, 2010 |
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Nom de l'autorCàrrecTipus d'autorObra?Estat
Clive Barkerautor primaritotes les edicionscalculat
Reinert, KirkAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat
SanjulianAutor de la cobertaautor secundarialgunes edicionsconfirmat

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Memory, prophesy and fantasy—
the past, the future and
the dreaming moment between—
are all one country,
living one immortal day.

To know that is wisdom.

To use it is the Art.
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In the little town of Palomo Grove, two great armies are amassing; forces shaped from the hearts and souls of America. In this New York Times bestseller, Barker unveils one of the most ambitious imaginative landscapes in modern fiction, creating a new vocabulary for the age-old battle between good and evil. Carrying its readers from the first stirring of consciousness to a vision of the end of the world, The Great and Secret Show is a breathtaking journey in the company of a master storyteller.

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