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Old 10-13-2016   #1
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The Literature of Creepy Clowns



"The Literature of Creepy Clown" (Literary Hub) highlights Ligotti's "The Last Feast of Harlequin."

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The apex of clowns-as-nightmare fuel in literature may well have come from the pen of Thomas Ligotti. This is not terribly shocking, given that Ligotti could write about an adorable child riding a pony on a sunny day and turn it into the stuff that chills readers’ souls and convinces them that they live in a bleak, arbitrary universe. Among the stories in his collection Grimscribe is “The Last Feat of Harlequin,” about an academic whose work involves articles with titles like “The Clown Figure in American Media.” He ventures to the town of Mirocaw, which hosts an annual festival in which clowns play a prominent role. Our narrator habitually attends such events, and regularly takes part. “To me the title of Clown has always carried connotations of a noble sort,” he writes. Throw in the involvement of an old mentor and you have the beginnings of a compelling narrative.

It’s also a narrative that, by the story’s end, curdles into something utterly terrifying. The narrator arrives in Miroclaw and discovers anonymous townspeople dressed as clowns and battered by their neighbors according to some mysterious custom. “They’re the freaks,” one of the locals tells him. “It’s their turn this year. Everyone takes their turn. Next year it might be mine. Or yours.” By the time the story reaches its climax—in a clown-filled subterranean chamber, where a terrifying ritual takes place—even readers without a pre-existing aversion to clowns may well find themselves recoiling from one the next time they see them.

Ligotti’s story taps into the kind of formalized and codified behavior associated with clowns, and then uses that to unearth something much deeper and more sinister. It’s one of the most effective horror stories in a book of effective horror stories, and it seems no coincidence that the cover of the recent Penguin Classics edition of Ligotti’s Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe features a sinister riff on the harlequin whose imagery pervades the story.

"...the uncanny is to me the defining trait of this strange and terrible world and our strange and terrible minds." --Thomas Ligotti
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Old 10-13-2016   #2
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Re: The Literature of Creepy Clowns

If I may complement this with a somewhat related article:

Monster of the Week: The Mirocaw Harlequins | Stuff to Blow Your Mind
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Old 10-13-2016   #3
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Re: The Literature of Creepy Clowns

Clowns are the topic du jour!

"...the uncanny is to me the defining trait of this strange and terrible world and our strange and terrible minds." --Thomas Ligotti
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