I’ve been looking forward to reading this book. It sat there, in my to-be-read pile and I would look at it with the eyes of someone who saves the best for last and says, not yet…until one day, looking for my next read I thought “why wait?” and so my journey into the realm of magic began.
I am no complete stranger to the world of Clive Barker. Years ago I came across Galilee in a second hand bookstore and was intrigued by the promise on the back cover. It’s no surprise that I had high expectations from Weaveworld as well.
That which is imagined need never be lost
The story begins with birds, pigeons to be more accurate. Calhoun Mooney (Cal) is a young man caring for his father and his pigeons after his mother’s death. When one of them, named “33” (why 33, I wonder, at first I thought Barker had been 33 years old when he wrote the book but actually he was 35), escapes from its cage, Cal pursues it to a house where two men are attempting to remove a carpet and sell it. The house belongs to Mimi Laschenski, an old recluse who had been admitted to a hospital only days before, and the men want to sell the carpet to pay for the debts she had left behind.
In an attempt to capture the pigeon who had found shelter on the ledge of a window, Cal falls, just as the men had unfolded the carpet to have a better look at it. Only this is no ordinary piece of tapestry but an entirely different world. The carpet is the tangible representation of a magic realm, every thread and symbol and picture as real as it can be, all woven together in a brilliance of colors and patterns that dazzle the eye. It is the home of the Seerkind, a race of magical beings which humankind had hunted down and almost eradicated, the only record of them ever having lived being now found only in fairytales and legends.
The fall brings Cal right in the middle of the carpet and he gets a glimpse into that other world, but before more can be revealed, reality snaps him back and the two men leave taking the carpet with them. He vows to find out more and on a trip back at the house he meets Suzanna, Mimi’s niece, who had come following her grandmother’s letter. This is when their quest for saving the magic realm begins.
This story has all the elements of a fairy tale: there’s plenty of magic, a quest, love stories, a villain and even a dragon. Eroticism has its place too, although this being a fantasy it’s often twisted and grotesque not to mention appalling and compelling at the same time. The myth of the Garden of Eden is incorporated into the tale, as are churches and priests and a “demon” who thinks it’s an avenging angel.
The book is divided into thirteen parts, with a quotation by a famous poet/writer at the beginning of each part. This is one of my favorites, by W.H. Auden:
“The sky is darkening like a stain,
Something is going to fall like rain
And it won’t be flowers.”
I found interesting the use of the word “marriage” (and its variations) in the book. It would come every now and then, a tool used to describe the merging of elements:
“Of all the extraordinary times she’d had since she’d first become part of the Fugue’s story, these were in their way the strangest, as her experience of the Weaveworld and that of her present life did battle in her head for the right to be called real. She knew this was Cuckoo thinking; that they were both real. But her mind would not marry them – nor her place in them.”
“Hearing his boast her mind went back to the adventures she’d had in the book; how, in that no-man’s land between words and the world, everything had been transforming and becoming, and her mind, married in hatred with Hobart’s, had been the energy of that condition.”
Despite my efforts to keep up with the story, it was not long before I felt left behind. The characters seemed too remote and devoid of any real substance, the story too fragmented for my liking; it was as if I couldn’t latch on to anything. Halfway through the book doubts began creeping in – maybe it’s just not my kind of book, maybe I’m reading it at the wrong time. And then, in the last 200 pages (out of 722!) a strange thing happened – my eyes had encountered a passage :
“A man was dancing nearby, his skirts like living tissue.”
It was like a button inside my head had been pushed and it brought back a snippet of the past from somewhere deep where all good memories lie waiting. And just like that I went back a few years, to a cold and rainy Easter day when on a trip to Istanbul I watched the dervish dance, their clothes a pure white, human bells spinning around following a music like I hadn’t heard before, their movements hypnotic, making the world around disappear until there was nothing else but a flurry of white. And just like that, I found my way back to the story. If that is not magic, I don’t know what is.
I did enjoy the story but not as much as I thought I would. Barker creates amazing pictures with words, colors unfold and flash brilliantly, descriptions are vivid and mesmerizing, it’s like watching a painting come to life. I’m almost annoyed with myself for not liking it more – it feels that the story is just above average but I haven’t given up hope. Someday, another one of his fantastical stories will come my way and I can only hope this time the journey will be more enjoyable.
*Read in September 2011