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G. S. Carnivals
04-22-2007, 02:55 AM
Reading fiction is generally a pleasurable experience for many readers. There are instances, however, where the reading of fiction may involve hard work in the way of interpretation and understanding, (and, ultimately, enjoyment). Sometimes, though, satisfying interpretation and understanding may elude even the most astute readers. Easy reading aside, let us consider the works which have left us befuddled, stupefied, and blubbering like idiots.

Among Thomas Ligotti's stories, "Dream of a Mannikin" and "The Medusa" have confounded me for years. Thanks to the insights offered by another TLO member, "The Medusa" is not so perplexing anymore. "Dream of a Mannikin" continues to make me think. And think. And think.

Over the years, a few tales have puzzled me in one way or another. These stories have each been in my grasp, briefly. Until they slip away again. My three most perplexing stories have been read and reread to no avail. These stories are "The Repairer of Reputations" by Robert W. Chambers, "And Now the News..." by Theodore Sturgeon, and "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" by Harlan Ellison.

What stories or novels have toyed with your sensibilities?

Nemonymous
04-23-2007, 08:29 AM
The Cicerones by Robert Aickman.
Particularly the line: Next to her hung a further small picture, showing a saint carrying his own skin.

Nemonymous
04-24-2007, 06:13 AM
I am greatly dismayed! :-(
Someone elsewhere has shattered all my years of seeing this as a mystery, by posting this:
As in Michaelangelo's THE LAST JUDGEMENT, which shows St Bartholomew holding his own flayed skin.

Archangel
04-24-2007, 12:21 PM
I am greatly dismayed! :-(
Someone elsewhere has shattered all my years of seeing this as a mystery, by posting this:
As in Michaelangelo's THE LAST JUDGEMENT, which shows St Bartholomew holding his own flayed skin.
well, there is a mistery there anyway, because it seems that the skin of the saint has been drawn in the likeness of the painter himself... something of which (or course) nobody is sure...

Nemonymous
04-25-2007, 05:50 AM
I tried last night.
Got a bit messy. So I laid it back on the red seedbed revealed ...going to try again later.
Fingers will be last.
....
Meanwhile, another delightfully 'perplexing' work:
Mysterious Kôr by Elizabeth Bowen:
"Full moonlight drenched the city, and searched it; there was not a niche left to stand in. The effect was remorseless: London looked like the moon's capital..."

G. S. Carnivals
04-25-2007, 08:27 PM
I have just realized a strange connection among the three stories which I cited in my initial post: senseless violence. Each piece examines this unfortunate phenomenon from a different perspective, however. My sudden realization is far from a trifold revelation, alas. If I had a million years and the advantage of thousands of readings, perhaps I would glean insights worth commenting on. Until then...

Your Muddled Moderator,
Phil

Nemonymous
04-26-2007, 04:25 PM
Thinking about it, the most perpelixng book, for me, has to be THE KING IN YELLOW by Robert W Chambers. This is the book where Thomas Ligotti truly is riddled.

unknown
04-30-2007, 12:22 AM
The following novels all gave me quite the hard time when reading:

Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh
Maldoror & the Complete Works of the Comte de Lautreamont
The Soft Machine by William S Burroughs
House of Leaves by Mark Z Danielewski (though not so much)
The Sound & The Fury by William Faulkner

...and I think that's about it really. probably not

Severini
04-30-2007, 11:33 AM
There are two Ligotti stories that really made me think and almost burn my brain cells.On "The strange design of master rignolo" I saved myself, and on another, "Mad night of atonement", after dozens of readings, I e-mailed Mr. Ligotti himself and he saved me.There is another one: "The voice in the bones" that I completely gave up on making any sense of it.Now I take it as a nightmare put to paper for the sake of my sanity.

Other authors include:

Absolute Love by Alfred Jarry

Cities of the red night - William Burroughs

How it is By Samuel Beckett

G. S. Carnivals
04-30-2007, 01:52 PM
I agree with unknown and Severini about the difficulty of digesting the works of William S. Burroughs. Both The Soft Machine and Naked Lunch gave me a case of the dizzies. It is not Burroughs' writing which is to blame, but the method of presentation which is random editing. Passages from either "novel" could be interchanged without raising an eyebrow. Perhaps they were. Only the shade of Mr. Burroughs knows...

Severini, about two years ago I was smoking outside at work. candy (who worked in my department and building at the time) came out to puff a minute later. She saw my face and said, "You just read something." I think I just nodded and kept silent. I had just reread "Mad Night of Atonement," a brilliant and challenging Ligotti story. I now think that I simultaneously juggle three different but subjectively valid interpretations of the story.

Karnos
05-03-2007, 03:04 AM
It's really not complex at all, in fact it is only erotic fiction gone wrong, but I have always found Bataille's "The Story of the Eye" a very bizarre and perplexing book.

Another puzzling work of fiction (a short story) is "La Boca" (The Mouth) by Spanish-Cuban writer José Carlos Samoza; it's about a dentist whose world is shattered after making a very basic but disturbing discovery; underneath his skin and flesh there are bones, lots of them. The story is contained in the anthology "El Detalle" (The Detail), in company of two other unsettling pieces.

There is nothing complex about Juan Ramón Biedma's "El Espejo del Monstruo" (The Monster's Mirror), it is a very straightforward gruesome noir story set in Seville, Spain about a serial killer who murders his victims mimicking the deaths of various Catholic saints and martyrs; the kicker is that all of the victims are physically deformed one way or another. What is perplexing about this book are two minor side plots; one of them concerning the eerie gifted daughter of the main character and the appearance of an archaic Byzantine symbol in every surface of Seville; walls, newspapers, books, etc... both plots are never resolved and there doesn't seem to be any discernable meaning to them.

Nemonymous
05-06-2007, 06:41 AM
Only God is clever enough to sarbanise a doll.

Only God is clever enough to use some people as puppets in 'self-destruction by dark imagination'.

It is now time to pray for understanding.

'The Collected Stories of Oliver Onions' is a mighty perplexing tome; overtly ghost stories but simply just the start of the first prayer.

Ligotti, E. Bowen, Aickman, T. Landolfi, Grabinski, Lovecraft, W.G. Sebald, R. Chambers, C. Priest, Proust ... each a perplexing prayer, efficacious in their separate ways, but eventually useless against the ultimate perplexity?

(Edited for very minor tweaks)

yellowish haze
06-11-2007, 02:54 PM
Des,
How did you find out that Landolfi guy? He seems to be very little known. Last week I discovered that my girldfriend, who studies italian language and culture, was supposed to analyse several stories by Landolfi. I finally ended up reading my first story in Italian (with some help from my girlfriend, of course:cool:) - Gogol's Wife. Wonderful!!!

Unfortunately in my native language there are no translations of this fascinating author. There is only a 200pp study which gives one a general idea of what he wrote about. Looks like I will have to learn italian as soon as possible, for Landolfi really seems to be someone I can't miss!

Nemonymous
06-11-2007, 03:32 PM
Slawek,
re TOMMASO LANDOLFI

I have two books:

'Words In Commotion & other stories' Viking Penguin (hardback) 1986
Translated by Kathrine Jason; Introduction by Italo Calvino ('Precision and Chance')
The Labrenas; Chicken Fate; Two Wakes; The Kiss; Gogol's Wife; The Werewolf; The Provincial Night; Maria Giuseppa; Uxoricide; The Test; The Ampulla; A Woman's Breast; The Eternal Province; Prefigurations: Plato; Literary Prize; The Grace of God; Prize In Spite Of; Rain; The Eclipse; The Gnat; An Abstract Concept; Personaphilogicaldramatic Conference; Implications; Dialogue of the Greater Systems; Words In Commotion.

'Gogol's Wife & Other Stories' New Directions (paperback) 1963
Translated by Raymond Rosenthal, John Longrigg, Wayland Young
Gogol's Wife; Pastoral; Dialogue on the Greater Harmonies; The Two Old Maids; Wedding Night; The Death of the King of France; Giovanni and His Wife; Sunstroke; A Romantic's Letter on Gambling.

yellowish haze
06-11-2007, 03:46 PM
Thanks! As far as I know in English there is also this novel:

Amazon.com: An Autumn Story (Eridanos Library, No 14): Books: Tommaso Landolfi,Joachim Neugroschel

The cover reminds me a bit of Nemo6. ;)

From Wikipedia:

"Landolfi's most prominent work is An Autumn Story. Its story is, in more ways than one, a metaphor for an end to the old and the beginning of the new. While ghosts, terror and war dominate the landscape, and a gothic horror story is the main plot, there is nonetheless a sense that this book is a lamentation on an epoch that came to a violent end during World War II."

Nemonymous
06-11-2007, 03:53 PM
The cover reminds me a bit of Nemo6

Actually, it's more like the actual cover of Nemo 4 ... shown here:
http://www.infinityplus.co.uk/nonfiction/nemo4.htm :-)

Seriously, thanks. Not sure I was aware of 'Autumn Story'.

Whatever the case, I recommend that fans of Thomas Ligotti should definitely seek out Tommaso Landolfi.

des

yellowish haze
06-11-2007, 03:56 PM
Oh, yes how could I have forgotten the fourth instalment of Nemonymous!

G. S. Carnivals
06-11-2007, 08:59 PM
Last week I discovered that my girldfriend, who studies italian language and culture, was supposed to analyse several stories by Landolfi. I finally ended up reading my first story in Italian (with some help from my girlfriend, of course:cool:) - Gogol's Wife. Wonderful!!!
I first read "Gogol's Wife" nearly thirty years ago, and remember nothing at all about the story, alas. A reread is imperative. I have the story in Judith Merril's anthology SF12. Her selections for the the best "science fiction, fantasy, and imaginative writing" for the 1966 calendar year are eclectic and ignore genre pigeonholing. Leiber tosses dice with Landolfi. Ballard and Burroughs break bottles against a wall. And the women emerge with a loud and ominous voice. Callisher, Emshwiller, Reed, Bailey, and Dorman sew nothing but crazy quilts. SF12 was Ms. Merril's last anthology of the "year's best." Perhaps she was done in by the frenzy of the "New Wave" and the realization that she could no longer keep up with everything in a timely manner. From her afterword to Landolfi's story: "I missed 'Gogol's Wife' in its first English-language publication - Encounter, 1960 - and in the 1963 New Directions collection, and found it just last year -thanks to Playboy's A. C. Spectorsky, and J. G. Ballard. I do not know when it was first published in Italy."

G. S. Carnivals
06-23-2007, 04:31 PM
Severini, about two years ago I was smoking outside at work. candy (who worked in my department and building at the time) came out to puff a minute later. She saw my face and said, "You just read something." I think I just nodded and kept silent. I had just reread "Mad Night of Atonement," a brilliant and challenging Ligotti story. I now think that I simultaneously juggle three different but subjectively valid interpretations of the story.
My last post, a quotation of the penultimate paragragh from "Mad Night of Atonement" has at last delivered to me a satisfying and definitive interpretation of the story. Transcribing a text is tedious. It involves a reading which is quite different from that of the casual reader. Fragments of five or six words can resonate in the mind as never before as one types them. This process has allowed me to finally discern the proper meaning of "Mad Night of Atonement." Maybe. At least I'm down to one interpretation of the story now.

Patrick Mullins
06-23-2007, 04:59 PM
most perplexing to me has been heroes & villains by angela carter. not sure why, really enjoyed it, just have been left with the feeling that someone has explained something really important to me while i wasn't listening. read the thing three times.
words in commotion is an excellent collection, curious to find the other works.

Not Available
06-26-2007, 06:36 PM
Dhalgren by Sam Delaney is perplexing but after the last time I read it I felt like I was much closer to understanding what Delaney was doing in that novel (but I could be totally wrong of course).

Finnegans Wake by James Joyce - I know, I must be freaking nuts but it's the K2 of bizarroland so I had to take it on - I studied the Campbell book - the Skeleton Key - and a few more modern interpretations. Armed with all this knowledge I tumbled. I got through almost all the book but I feel like I was not getting it very much. Despite this I still return frequently for a taste of that Irish weirdness.

Ulysees by James Joyce - much more straightforward novel but after the Library chapter things start getting challenging. My least favorite chapter is the Hospital because it is so damned hard with the gestation of the language portion of the chapter. Other than that it IS a rather straightforward novel - albeit a VERY DETAILED one.

Alec...

G. S. Carnivals
02-08-2008, 06:59 PM
Over the years, a few tales have puzzled me in one way or another. These stories have each been in my grasp, briefly. Until they slip away again. My three most perplexing stories have been read and reread to no avail. These stories are "The Repairer of Reputations" by Robert W. Chambers, "And Now the News..." by Theodore Sturgeon, and "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" by Harlan Ellison.
Perhaps the season of winter, usually a gloomy veil of depression, is bringing on an additional personal sense of anxiety, helplessness, and confusion. Recent accounts of random violence and extremely bad weather have not eased my sensitive mind. The stories by Sturgeon and Ellison have moved once again into the forefront of my consciousness. The works address the problem of unwarranted violence, but offer no solutions. I urge all to seek out and read the stories. Let's all get bummed out together.

Mr. D.
02-09-2008, 02:33 AM
I agree with many of the previously named stories and novels but i would like to add one that has always been slightly out of my grasp. It is the novel (if that is the correct word) entitled The Saragosso Manuscript. I haven't read it for a long time and I can't remember the name of the author, but I worked my way through it a few times and final comprehension has always eluded me. It is memorable, though and strangely entertaining. I'm sure a lot of our members are familiar with it, but for those who aren't it was written by a Polish author in the 19th century and recount the adventures of an officer in France's war with Spain around 1810 who comes across a manuscript that tells a very circular, dream-like biography of one of his ancestors. The story keeps folding back into itself the way that dough is kneaded after the first rising. Kneaded bread describes the plot better than any other metaphor I can come up with. And though I never fully understood the book parts of it still run through my head to this day. There was a movie made out of it and Jerry Garcia of the Grateful Dead called it his favorite movie.

Bleak&Icy
02-11-2008, 07:54 AM
Mark Samuels' short story "Shallaballah" (Year's Best Fantasy and Horror # 19) is infuriatingly elusive. Each time I think I have a hold on the meaning, it wriggles out of my grasp like a slippery fish.

If Ligotti, Aickman, Ballard and Borges had a literary foursome, resulting in a fictional lovechild, its name might be.... "Shallaballah"...

Postscript (the morning after): I was very very drunk when I wrote this, and I am now rather embarrassed by the notion of a "literary foursome" (damn the demon red wine).

Bleak&Icy
02-11-2008, 07:57 AM
Also Terry Lamsley's "Sickhouse Hospitality" (latest Year's Best Horror).... I am still reeling from that one....

G. S. Carnivals
02-11-2008, 01:30 PM
Over the years, a few tales have puzzled me in one way or another. These stories have each been in my grasp, briefly. Until they slip away again. My three most perplexing stories have been read and reread to no avail. These stories are "The Repairer of Reputations" by Robert W. Chambers, "And Now the News..." by Theodore Sturgeon, and "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World" by Harlan Ellison.
Perhaps the season of winter, usually a gloomy veil of depression, is bringing on an additional personal sense of anxiety, helplessness, and confusion. Recent accounts of random violence and extremely bad weather have not eased my sensitive mind. The stories by Sturgeon and Ellison have moved once again into the forefront of my consciousness. The works address the problem of unwarranted violence, but offer no solutions. I urge all to seek out and read the stories. Let's all get bummed out together.
Yesterday I reread Harlan Ellison's "The Beast That Shouted Love at the Heart of the World." My reading was one of deliberate slowness and care. I now fully understand the story. However, I still fail to understand the senseless violence which seems to pervade this planet we inhabit.

Patrick Mullins
02-17-2008, 10:31 PM
recently read under the skin by michel faber...totally mindblowing. reminded of the best work of one of my favorites, ms. angela carter, in that it provides you with an easy moral handle as a way in, but said handle proves to be but a miniscule part of a much larger, more perplexing whole, leaving you wondering exactly what that easy moral was.
good to see bleak & icy's mention of terry lamsley...my favorite lamsleys (made ready, stunted house, the break) also inhabit the same vague zone. i could fairly describe the break as heartbreaking. likewise q.s. crisp's cousin x. i'm veering of course here, the benefits of a bread baker's schedule and a permanent state of sleep deprivation.
has thomas bernhard come up on this thread yet?

unknown
02-21-2008, 09:37 PM
I don't if I or anybody else has mentioned it, but Marabou Stork Nightmares by Irvine Welsh is quite a challenge

bendk
02-29-2008, 03:43 PM
Mark Samuels' short story "Shallaballah" (Year's Best Fantasy and Horror # 19) is infuriatingly elusive. Each time I think I have a hold on the meaning, it wriggles out of my grasp like a slippery fish.Thank you for bringing "Shallaballah" to my attention. I just read it the other night and it is one of the better stories that I have read in a long, long, time. I agree, it is a puzzler.