Monday, July 23, 2012

Dark Passages: Coldheart Canyon

Clive Barker's epic 2001 novel Coldheart Canyon takes a fundamental aspect of American Gothic--the transplanting of European Gothic conventions into an American context--and turns it into a literal plot point.  The book centers on the actual transport of a massive tile mosaic (depicting scenes of diabolic debauchery, and serving as a supernatural portal) from an underground vault in Romania to the basement of a Hollywood mansion.  Here's a passage from the novel that perfectly captures the process of transfer from Old World to New:
Just before the thaw, in the middle of the following April, the weight of snow and ice finally brought the vaults down, in one calamitous descent.  There was nobody there to witness it, nor anyone within earshot to hear it.  The room which had contained the Hunt was buried in the debris of all the vaults, plaster and wood and stone filling the chamber to the middle of the walls.  Nobody who visited the Fortress in subsequent years--and there were a few explorers who came there every summer, usually imagining they'd stumbled on something darkly marvelous--a Fortress, perhaps belonging to Vlad the Impaler, whose legendary territory lay only a few hundred miles off to the West, in Transylvania--none of these visitors dug through the overgrown ruins with any great enthusiasm; certainly none ever asked themselves what function the half-buried room might once have served.  Nor, should it be said, would they have been able to guess, even the cleverest of them.  The mystery of the ruined chamber had been removed to another continent, where it was presently unfolding its dubious raptures for the delectation of a new and vulnerable audience.  Men and women who--like the tiles--had in many cases lately left their homelands; and in their haste to be famous left behind them such talismans as hearth and altar might have offered by way of protection against the guileful Hunt.  (49-50)

Work Cited

Barker, Clive.  Coldheart Canyon: A Hollywood Ghost Story.  New York: HarperCollins, 2001.

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