Clive Barker’s story “The Yattering and Jack” is definitely one of the more interesting stories we have read so far. It had its own set of problems but still was able to remain quite interesting and funny. This is the story of the Yattering, a lower demon from Hell, and his attempt to corrupt Jack’s soul. But Jack takes everything that the Yattering does and chalks it up to some logical explanation, be that dogs or a settling foundation. Nothing seems to bother him, until the end when we are told he was just playing along but we’ll get to that a little later.
First, I want to talk about the Yattering himself. This was an interesting little demon. We don’t really know
what he looks like until the end but I definitely imagined this little red imp dude, mainly because he was a lower demon and red is often associated with Hell. Imagine my surprise when I saw this cover art. Pretty much what I had imagined.
But what really made the Yattering unique for this story was that we were inside his head for the majority of the story. We felt how frustrated he was getting when he couldn’t corrupt Jack. We felt how he lusted for the woman across the street. Unlike Rawhead Rex, whose head we were also able to get inside, here we actually sympathized with the Yattering. I felt bad for the little guy who really was trying to do his job and failing at it. Seeing all of these emotions running through the Yattering served to humanize him in a way that we haven’t really seen so far. And it worked for me. I wasn’t afraid of the Yattering in the sense of how I might feel towards other demons, Although I am sure if this little guy was causing trouble around my house, I’d probably freak out a little. But all in all, the little demon was believable and served his purpose well. Kind of reminded me of Lucifer in Paradise Lost, where we understand him on some level and even sympathize with him, even if we aren’t necessarily supposed to root for him. (I have to say, I think I kind of did though for a little while.)
Now, for a couple issues that didn’t work in the story for me. One was the head hopping that started happening as soon as Jack started playing a larger role. When the confrontation between the two starts to happen, we are jumping back and forth on each one’s feelings and it started to get confusing, especially with the use of “he” pronouns. I had trouble at first understanding which mind we were in from paragraph to paragraph, especially when the bomb is dropped that Jack knows about the Yattering and knows how to defeat him. And that’s a whole other issue in and of itself. How did Jack know about the Yattering and find out all of this information? It came out of nowhere and seemed really abrupt, which worked as a surprise for the Yattering but confused me, but I digress. The head hopping just didn’t work for me. It happened too often and too confusingly.
The ending was really great, using the che sera sera to tie everything up and bring the story full circle. It got my stamp of approval. Overall, I enjoyed the short story and would recommend others to read it.
Also, just for fun, there is an episode of Tales from the Darkside on The Yattering and Jack. It’s Season 4, Episode 7. It’s quirky and starts on Christmas Day but a fun little episode to watch. Oh, and it stars Phil Fondacaro as the Yattering, which was by far the worst possible interpretation I could think of.
12 thoughts on “The Yattering and Jack”
Okay this isn’t my real comment yet, but I just saw that video pic while scrolling down to comment on 30 Days, and I immediately thought Ron Jeremy as a midget dressed like a demon. Wow…
“Ron Jeremy as a midget dressed like a demon.”
I need to scour my brain now, thank you very much.
I just assumed that Jack knew about the demon law from his mother, since she was a practicing member of the Church of Lost Salvation.
I felt for the Yattering, too, and Barker did a great job of giving his monsters unique POVs–the Yattering is nothing like Rex, and the story wouldn’t have worked half as well if they were similar, pure-evil killing machines. Now I have to watch that Tales from the Darkside episode….
Gah, she renounced Satan for the Church…. Not enough coffee today >_<
I know somewhere in the story Jack mentions doing “research.” Maybe he did that while he was gherkin-trading, read up on some demonic lore on his lunch? All of the timing stuff seemed off too. We know the Yattering has only been there for about six months, and in that time Jack’s wife cheats on him a lot then leaves and ends up killing herself. And then when the daughters come home, there is absolutely NO MENTION of the wife (who is presumably their mother?). Wouldn’t they be upset that this is their first Christmas without her? That part bothered me a little.
Their mother cheated on Jack before that and left him, so I presumed perhaps this wasn’t technically their first Christmas without her or that they might have been used to a holiday with their parents separated/divorced.
Yes, but the Yattering talks about it like he was able to watch the whole thing. Time is just off for this whole story. I thought the same thing Christe did. Why is there no mention at all of the wife? You don’t just forget your mother, especially on Christmas.
I didn’t even pick up on that – although I thought that the suicide was kind of wedged in as it was. And from a theological standpoint, one could argue that Jack was the indirect cause of her death and, as such, was condemned to hell anyway.
Unrelated: did anybody else have to look up what a gherkin is?
Ugh, the ’80s, why do you have to be all bad at adapting genre fiction? And man, but I dislike casting little people in roles like this. It’s lazy and offensive and while I understand that CGI wasn’t really a thing back when that episode was made, it seems like they still could have cast an actor of ANY height and done some creative camera work with perspective and oversized objects to make him seem small.
I agree completely. I’m all for casting little people in roles but it should be because they are excellent actors, not because of their height. But that is a rant for another day.
Yeah, the mom suicide…. It kinda made it seem like Jack was his wife’s Yattering. Not in an annoying way, but in an ignoring way. She went insane trying to get his attention. He was way to chill about the consequences of that act.
I saw the P.O.V. as a form of omniscient. It made sense with some of the history provided, including the information about Jack’s wife and his mother. The multiple points of view is so essential to telling this story that I didn’t consider it head-hopping. I did briefly wonder how Jack knew about the Yattering to do his research, but assumed his mother told him before her reversion.