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“The eyes of certain crudely fashioned dolls are especially suggestive.”
Thomas Ligotti - “The Journal of J.P. Drapeau”

The New York Times Book Review of Ligotti's Penguin Classics Tome
Oct 29, 2015 - 11:21 AM - 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 | 3,053 Views
New Yorker Ligotti Article
Oct 29, 2015 - 9:55 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 | 1,796 Views
Jeff VanderMeer interview re. Ligotti and Lovecraft
Oct 24, 2015 - 11:21 AM - by DougieMGee
Hi all --

Wisconsin Public Radio's/Public Radio International's nationally-syndicated, Peabody Award-winning program, TO THE BEST OF OUR KNOWLEDGE, has a special episode devoted to H.P. Lovecraft.

It features an interview with Jeff VanderMeer re. HPL and Ligotti.
Here's the link:

And here's the link to the whole show:
4 Replies | 1,659 Views
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