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“In whatever corner of our old house I happened to find myself, I could always sense the arrival of a priest. Even in the most distant rooms of the upper floors, those rooms which had been closed up and which were forbidden to me, I would suddenly experience a very certain feeling. The climate of my surroundings then became inexplicably altered in a manner at first vaguely troublesome and afterward rather attractive. It was as if a new presence had invaded the very echoes of the air and had entered into the mellow afternoon sunlight which fell in stripes and squares across the dark wooden floors and upon the pale contortions of the ancient wallpaper. All around me invisible games had begun. My earliest philosophy regarding the great priestly tribe was therefore not a simple one by any means; rather, it comprised a thick maze of propositions, a labyrinthine layering of systems in which abstract dread and a bizarre sort of indebtedness were forever confronting each other.”
Thomas Ligotti - “The Library of Byzantium”

NPR Books on Thomas Ligotti's Penguin Classics Tome
Oct 31, 2015 - 10:16 AM - by Dr. Locrian

Three Horror Classics Rise From The Grave For Halloween : NPR

Just as television played a part in Beaumont's fame, Thomas Ligotti has seen a huge boost in notoriety lately thanks to a TV show — namely HBO's dark, brooding True Detective. The show's creator, Nic Pizzolatto, came under fire during True Detective's first season last year, which some critics claimed plagiarized Ligotti's work. Before being thrust into that spotlight, the reclusive Ligotti had been a cult figure for decades. His first two collections of short stories, 1985's Songs of a Dead Dreamer and 1991's Grimscribe, have been collected into a single volume, and it not only showcases Ligotti's formidable vision, it reveals exactly why he's been such half-hidden treasure for so long. His stories aren't for the faint of heart or the rigid of mind; he warps and layers reality and language into surreal, startling shapes.

Drawing from the nightmarish traditions of Edgar Allan Poe and H. P. Lovecraft, Ligotti infuses tales such as "Flowers of the Abyss" and "The Last Feast of the Harlequin" with strangely contorted architectures, both literal and metaphorical, as he examines the outskirts of madness like an archeologist of the grotesque and absurd. There's a playfulness and humor to his work, too — perverse though it may be — in the stories "Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story" and "Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror." But it's "The Greater Festival of Masks" that winds up being the book's consummate Halloween story. In it, a man named Noss wanders through an unnamed town whose location in geography and history are kept eerily vague; as he ventures deeper into the village's increasingly bizarre festival, he dons a mask of his own, only to find that there's more hiding beneath it than he could ever dream.

Each of these three books comes with beautiful new covers and incisive forewords by some of speculative fiction's best: Laird Barron, Jeff VanderMeer, and the late Ray Bradbury, who was a close friend of Beaumont and delivers, in typical Bradbury fashion, a remembrance of the author and his work that's both sentimental and unnerving. Taken together, these are not lightweight Halloween reads. They force us to look at our own world, and ourselves, in radically skewed ways. Ghouls, ghosts, witches, werewolves, and things that go bump in the night are in short supply in The Case Against Satan, Perchance to Dream, and Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe; in their place is something far more familiar, and far more frightening.
1 Reply | 369 Views
The New York Times Book Review of Ligotti's Penguin Classics Tome
Oct 29, 2015 - 12:21 PM - by Dr. Locrian

Stephen King’s ‘The Bazaar of Bad Dreams’ and More by Terrence Rafferty

Sloane’s novels may or may not be, as King claims, “actual works of literature,” but they are at the very least uncommonly beautiful and distinctive pieces of (apologies) genre fiction.

The horror stories of Thomas Ligotti, however, may be peculiar enough to qualify as “actual” literature: They clearly obey impulses that have little to do with entertainment, and sometimes feel indifferent even to story. A few years ago, Ligotti told an interviewer: “For my part, I don’t care for stories that are just stories. I feel there’s something missing from them. What’s missing for me is the presence of an author or, more precisely, an author’s consciousness.” The stories in his 1985 and 1991 collections SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER and GRIMSCRIBE, (Penguin, paper, $17), now ­reissued in a single volume, do not lack that authorial consciousness, and a frightening consciousness it is. The voices in his tales are, more often than not, those of men who expect very little of life: no spiritual meaning, certainly, no pleasure beyond the occasional sardonic chuckle, no beauty save in the grotesque and the anomalous, and no good end. They believe that “the most innocuous phenomena should eventually find their way from good dreams into bad, or from bad dreams into those that were wholly abysmal.” One character, in search of “a reality so saturated with its own presence that it had made a leap into the ­unreal,” finds in an old book “his long-sought abode of exquisite disfigurations.” He may be a madman, or he may not; Ligotti isn’t sure, so he leaves it up to us.

There are powerful echoes of Lovecraft in Ligotti, both in his willing embrace of demented physical and mental landscapes and in his often ornate, ­archaic-sounding prose. Ligotti is a much more accomplished stylist, though; you can detect traces of a higher, more self-aware decadence in his manipulations of pulp hyperbole, a hint of Lautréamont in the Lovecraftian perfume. The closest thing to a conventional genre story in these collections is a creepy little item called “The Last Feast of Harlequin,” in which an academic social anthropologist — author of “The Clown Figure in American Media” — travels to the upper Midwest for an obscure local festival and stumbles onto something rather stranger than he’d anticipated, a cult of voluntary zombies. “Their ­ideal,” he writes, “was a melancholy half-existence consecrated to all the many shapes of death and dissolution.” Yes, that gives the story away, but with Ligotti that matters rather less than it would with, say, Stephen King. King, the great entertainer, needs the story as the comedian needs the joke, and when he can’t quite deliver it he dies (in the comedian’s sense). King is a master of horror, though. When inspiration fails, he has the technique to fake it. Thomas ­Ligotti is a master of a different order, practically a different species. He probably couldn’t fake it if he tried, and he never tries. He writes like horror incarnate.
11 Replies | 1,008 Views
New Yorker Ligotti Article
Oct 29, 2015 - 10:55 AM - by Dr. Locrian
The Horror of the Unreal - The New Yorker

By Peter Berbegal

The TV show “The Walking Dead” is one long exercise in tension. But the zombies—the supposed centerpiece of the show’s horror—are not particularly frightening. Gross, to be sure, but also knowable, literal. You can see them coming from yards away. They are the product of science gone wrong, or of a virus, or of some other phenomenal cause. They can be destroyed with an arrow through the brain. More aberration than genuine monsters, they lack the essential quality to truly terrify: an aspect of the unreal.

The horror writer Thomas Ligotti believes that even tales of virus-created zombies—and other essentially comprehensible creatures—can elicit what we might call, quoting the theologian Rudolf Otto, “the wholly other,” but it requires a deft hand. The best such stories “approach the realm of the supernatural,” he told me over e-mail, even if their monsters are entirely earthly. As an example, he pointed to “The Texas Chainsaw Massacre,” “wherein the brutality displayed is so deviant and strange it takes off into the uncanny.” Ligotti doesn’t require bloodthirsty villains to convey a sense of impending horror, though. “I tend to stipulate in my work that the world by its nature already exists in a state of doom rather than being in the process of doom.”
8 Replies | 661 Views
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