Monday, June 6, 2011

The Theif of Always

you are a theif of time; a theif of always...

I was 12 when I read Clive Barkers book The Theif of Always and it changed, forever, how I looked at time and my life. It was this book that changed my wistless time wasting and taught me that each day counts. Though at the time, I didn't realise that Clive Barker was know for incorporating graphic elements of sex and violence into his novels. This book had a child like qaulity with an adult understanding. Though dark, it still remained innocent where it mattered. I believe that adults would read it and be reminded of thier own childhood dreams, resonating from that level rather then that of a jaded adult (Much like how the Harry Potter books are).

One of my favorite lines comes from this book, it is the opening line actually. Harvey Swick is "imprisioned in the great grey beast February". I've always dislike Feburary in Calgary and often felt that it was indeed a great gray beast. This line has always stuck with me and I try to remind myself when Feburary does come that it's just another collection of days that you will never get back. Take full advantage of them.

So,  Like most kids, Harvey is bored, not up for a few chores around the house, and asks only for fun. In short order, he's whisked away to the "Holiday House" by Mr. Rictus, who makes him promise not to ask questions about the house or its mysterious proprietor, Mr. Hood.

For a while, Harvey just accepts the Holiday House for what it seems to be; a luxurious estate where it's sping every morning, summer every day, Halloween Fall every evening and Christmas every night. Despite the strangeness that surrounds him, Harvey is able to call his parents, who tell him that they've arranged for him to have an extended holiday in the "House of Always". Barker brings off this exposition by using his flair for inflicting the imaginary on the mundane.

But when Harvey discovers the shadowed lake behind the house, he begins to doubt his surroundings: "Despite all the entertainments that the Holiday House supplied so eagerly, it was a haunted place, and however he had tried to ignore his doubts and suppress his questions, they could be ignored and suppresed no longer. Whoever, or whatever, that haunter was, Harvey knew he could no longer be content until he'd seen its face and knew its nature." In this manner Barker cleverly weaves the moral of his fable with the nature of the supernatural story.
For when Harvey tries to leave, the modern moral imperative to "Question Authority" becomes a matter of survival. Barker's employs a light but sinister touch throughout the novel. The short chapters will make the book accessible for younger readers, while having the effect of making the book into a page-turner for their parents. The illustrations by the author are, like the prose, evocative without being overly graphic.

This is not to say that the book is without shocking scares. When Mr. Hood is finally revealed, in a primarily terrifying scene, even the most jaded horror fan will be impressed. Barker culminates the seasonal themes in this novel with a description of a storm that demonstrates his facility for creating wonders as mesmerizing as his horrors: "It had more than lightning at its dark heart. It had the light rains that came at early morning to coax forth the seeds of another spring; it had the drooping fogs of autumn, and the spiraling snows that had brought so many midnight Christmases...shafts of sunlight pierced the storm-clouds in the name of Summer, only to be smothered by Fall's fogs, while...Spring coaxed its legions out of bough and earth, then saw its buds murdered by Winter's frosts before they could show their colors."

The Thief of Always is "a fable for all ages", a dark amalgamation of Peter Pan, Pinnochio and the Wizard of Oz. Because it's a fable, it has a moral content, but one that's distinctly modern in tone and light in touch. Most importantly, it's a joy to read, as Barker's clear, poetic prose carries the reader into the world of Harvey Swick, a ten year old boy with a penchant for asking questions.

Since first reading the book I believe I have returned to it at least a dozen times. Always enjoying the moments and story almost as though I am reading it for the first time. It always comes as a gentle reminder just how valuable life is and how important it is to take advantage of it. If you are full of health and vitality, grasp it and make it your vessel.

And this is my book report for the day. Butterfly's in the sky, I can go twice as high. When you take a look, it's in a book. It's Reading Rainbow...

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