The Yattering and Jack: Dance Turkey Dance!

So The Yattering and Jack was the first thing I actually read by Clive Barker, and I have to say this was what made me really appreciate his way with words. There was still that crazy head-hopping that I mentioned in Rawhead Rex, but he totally made up for it with the turkey. More on that later, and if you don’t want any more spoilers, STOP READING. For now, anyway.

The Yattering is one of my favorite kinds of demon portrayals. Poor little Yattering just wants to please his masters and drive his target, one Jack J. Polo, completely insane. Easy, right? Throw a few things, toast a cat or two, whisper nastiness in his ear. What the little demon doesn’t know is that Polo is completely on to him, and is playing a game of his own.

I really felt bad for the little thing. Once again we get a story from the monster’s POV, but this time the monster is the demonic equivalent of a child, who doesn’t even know what Heaven really is, or why he’s really doing what he’s doing. He was bred for purpose, and that was it. But the Yattering has a child’s curiosity and wants to know why why why. Instead he just gets boredom. And man, I would go crazy too if all I had to do all day was putter around the house, wait for the mailman, torture the cat, and leer at the naked lady across the street. What I want to know is, why didn’t the Yattering watch TV while he waited for Polo to come home after work? He obviously could touch things since he broke most of Polo’s belongings. If I were a little demon stuck in that situation, I’d be watching daytime talk shows. It would have been funny if the Yattering got addicted to soaps or Oprah.

Anyway I have to talk about the turkey scene, which to me was the hands-down best scene in the story. The Yattering is at its wits’ end and is launching a full scale assault on Polo and his daughters during Christmas. His brilliant idea is to make the Christmas turkey escape from the oven and try to fly away. I absolutely love the imagery of this delectable looking turkey, complete with a coating of bacon, stumbling around clumsy and headless as it launches toward the family. The words that Barker uses to describe it are at once grotesque and delectable, making the reader not sure whether they want to run from the turkey or eat it. It’s the one image that sticks in my head whenever I think about this story. The turkey certainly isn’t the monster, but it is a little terrifying. And delicious.

Well the poor Yattering doesn’t win in the end. Polo ends up incensing the creature to the point where it breaks all its rules and comes out side to squish Polo’s head. As soon as it does that the creature is now bound to Polo. Polo effectively beats Hell at its own game, and the Yattering becomes the prize. The reader certainly empathizes with the Yattering, even though you feel like you should route for Polo. I can’t quite decide if Polo is actually evil, or just trying to live his life in peace. You get the sense that he’s done his research and knows quite a bit more about Hell and its denizens than he ever lets on in the story. So is the Yattering actually the protagonist who meets a tragic end? I guess that’s up to you to decide. I think so. I rooted for the little guy.

***I am posting this from my iPad, so I don’t have the funny pics that I’d like to include with this post, but I will most likely update it later with some gems 🙂



  1. The turkey scene reminded me of a dark version of the Three Stooges routine where the parrot crawled inside the cooked turkey, so that when they tried to carve it, it squawked and ran around trying to escape. I couldn’t help but picture that when I read the scene, even though the Yattering was responsible and the girls were terrified. Hey, maybe that’s it–maybe the Yattering did watch TV and got inspiration from The Three Stooges.

  2. I can picture it now: the Yattering with a Maury or Jerry Springer addiction….

    Anyway, the turkey scene is my favorite, too. A turkey flying around is a funny image–they’re kind of ridiculous looking birds, alive or otherwise. But it would be terrifying if one burst out of your oven and started flying around your house.

  3. The turkey scene was hilarious and brought to mind the classic WKRP in Cincinnati Thanksgiving episode, wherein they dropped turkeys from a helicopter thinking they could fly. “The turkeys are hitting the ground like sacks of wet cement!”

  4. Yes, the turkey scene. It was also probably the best part of the Tales from the Darkside episode as well.

  5. The turkey scene was pretty good – kind of reminded me of the dinner party scene in Beetlejuice. I did get a kick out of how Barker used the gravy and stuffing to simulate ‘gore’ while the bird flailed around.

  6. The turkey scene reminded me of the scene in cloudy with a chance of meatballs where all of the chickens are crawling on the ceiling and then they surround the protagonists. This was horrificly creepy to me for some reason.

  7. How can anyone not love the turkey scene?

    Anyway, I didn’t really think of the Yattering as childlike. I saw him more as the worker-bee, the ideal employee of the giant, soulless (see what I did there?) corporation. His was not to question why, his was just to do or die. He did wake up enough to question, not that it did any good. But, he had a job, and dammit, he was going to do it, no matter how frustrating it was.

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