Dream Weaver

Article excerpt

Exclusive: Clive Barker talks about his ambitious new novel

An epic novel centering on two powerful, feuding families, Galilee (HarperCollins, $26) may be the most accessible book ever to come out of Clive Barker's vivid and complex imagination. The celebrated author-filmmaker has always dabbled in reality on an emotional level. But with his most recent works, he's been creeping into the real world on a physical level as well.

Barker's change of direction started with his previous novel, Sacrament. Not everyone was happy with the result. Just six weeks before he delivered Sacrament to HarperCollins, a higher-up (since departed) in the company was horrified to discover that one of the publishing house's best-selling authors had framed an entire novel around what Barker calls "a sort of gay Indiana Jones," whom he set in the real world. The message seemed to be that fantasy-based sexual diversity was fine but that gay sex in the real world was overstepping the boundaries.

"My argument was that my readers are extremely smart," Barker remembers. "My straight readers are perfectly happy to read about characters whose sexual tastes are not exactly mainstream. I've had every nuanced sexual possibility somewhere in the [earlier] books, and nobody ever complained."

The flap over Sacrament was short-lived, it turns out: Barker's new direction was a hit. "The audience was very: happy with the book," he says. "Sacramental has continued to sell strongly."

That meant clear sailing for Galilee. Not only was Barker able to inject his gay sensibilities into the work, he was able to do so within the framework of a realistic story. "[I knew] I could write about the real world in a straightforward way," he explains, "and layer into it all these mysteries and metaphysical illuminations without losing the page-turning, grab-you-by-the-throat-and-hold-you element." He's done this with Galilee's warring dynasties: The Gearys inhabit the real world, and the Barbarossas, straddle the fence between the real and the supernatural. Galilee, a Barbarossa, is bisexual. …