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Old 12-08-2016   #1
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Topic Nominated Your First Ligotti Collection



This is a well loved book. Here's the story that goes along with it:

Quote
Back in the Spring of 1991, I was browsing the horror stacks at a local BOOKS-A-MILLION in Hoover, Alabama when I came across the paperback version of Ligotti's Songs of a Dead Dreamer. I was immediately struck by the evocative, despairing title and—honestly—the cover art (which, as you may recall, featured a despondent girl merging into a mountain landscape). Once I turned the book over and read the Washington Post blurb, "Put this on the bookshelf between Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft where it belongs," I was instantly sold. I was and am an avid Lovecraft and Poe reader and admirer, so Ligotti's collection had a lot to live up to. I'm glad to state that it did—and more. I had at once found in Ligotti my favorite prose writer, living or dead.

I remember reading "The Frolic," arguably Ligotti's most conventional tale, and being absolutely mesmerized by Jon Doe's cosmic, scummy, blissful visions. The tales in SoaDD were so filled, to one degree or another, with this kind of bleak, numinous ecstasy coupled with a rich, sardonic and self-effacing humor. It was like nothing else I had experienced as a reader. As I continued Songs, I noticed that my hands were occasionally tingling as if they had a moderate but definitely noticeable electrical current running through them (a peculiar sensation I had never experienced hitherto). By the time I finished "The Chymist" I knew that I had found my writer—the one fiction writer, more than any other before or since, that absolutely spoke to me. It was as if Ligotti intimately shared all of my most private fears and obsessions—even the ones of which I wasn’t consciously aware—and was able to artistically project them via a precise yet perfectly elegant prose. In short, way back in ‘91, I felt like the stories in Songs had been extracted from my sleeping mind and set to paper—as if I was the protagonist of "The Bungalow House," coming across the dream monologues for the first time. Immediately, I recognized that were I a prolific fiction writer (and I'm not), I'd strive to write fiction identical to Thomas Ligotti's work.

Ligotti’s stories nearly always transport my imagination and—paradoxically considering the subject matter—produce a great sense of well-being, relief and calm in me. To quote Ligotti's "The Cocoons," when I read Tom's stories I felt (and feel) a "...great sense of escape from the poles of fear and madness ...as if I could exist serenely outside the grotesque ultimatums of creation, an entranced spectator casting a clinical gaze at the chaotic tumult both around and within him." I invariably leave those tales feeling calm and aware and even ecstatic. Ligotti's stories have been like Transcendental Meditation for my imagination.

Anyway, in ’91, I didn't put that first Ligotti collection down till I was done with the last story, and I immediately began rereading it all again (which at the time I had never done with any other book). I am embarrassed and amused to be recently reminded that I in fact proceeded to read Songs and was so unable to put the book down that I managed to continue reading it even while driving from the bookstore parking lot to my dorm room at college. Had I died in a fatal accident, it would have certainly been ironic.
I'd love to read your first Ligotti collection anecdotes.

"...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 12-08-2016   #2
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

My first collection was a copy of the same paperback also in the early 1990s. Before getting this book, the first stories I'd read were Dream of a Manikin (Tales by Moonlight II) and Masquerade for a Dead Sword (in Heroic Visions II) .

I almost read SoaDD in one sitting. What a revelation! That year I bought copies for my sister and my best friend. Later, when I did my Peace Corps service in Kenya, I brought another copy (as well as paperback copies of Grimscribe and Noctuary).

When I left Kenya, I left my copies behind with the hope that my (not as strictly religious) teacher friends would read them.

I've lost track of how many times I've reread this book.
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Old 12-08-2016   #3
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

While walking around The World's Biggest Bookstore in Toronto in the early 90s I came upon a copy of the same paperback edition of Songs of a Dead Dreamer as in your post, Dr. Locrian. I had never heard of Ligotti and wasn't all that interested in Weird Fiction, but the name of the collection was really striking to me and I spent a good half hour mulling over whether or not I'd buy it in spite of knowing absolutely nothing about it. In the end, I chose not to buy it, and when I looked for it again the next time I went to the bookstore it was gone.

A few years later I saw a copy of The Shadow at the Bottom of the World in the University of Toronto bookstore and actually bought it. I loved it.
From there it was on to Teatro Grotesco and Conspiracy Against the Human Race. Now that I've become interested in working my way through all the writings of all the great Weird Fiction writers, I'm expecting very shortly to have finished reading the Ligotti stories that I still haven't gotten to. I always feel ambivalent, though, about reading a favorite author's complete works. I always like to a keep something unread by a favorite author so that there will be always be one or two last works that I can enjoy the thrill of reading for the first time at some point in the future. Euripides is one of my all-time favorite authors and I've read every play of his but one several times. I've it a point to never read his play Ion, because I always want there to be one last great Greek tragedy there for me to look forward to experiencing as something fresh and new.
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Old 12-08-2016   #4
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

Teatro Grottesco. Though technically my first encounter with Ligotti was in the way of the Nightmare Factory comics. I was looking for horror comics and had not heard of Ligotti at all. This was back in 2010-ish, and I'm a bit ashamed to say my impression of his work then was mostly "well, this isn't particularly frightening" but there was somethign alluring about his stories". However, I did not pursue it further at the time.

Then in 2012 at another forum I was pointed in the direction of Matt Cardin as an example of superb horror fiction. Cardin led me to discover Mark Samuels, and didn't take me long to see they both acknowledged Ligotti as an important influence and a must-read author. I remembered the name from the comics but figured I should try one of his actual books on the understanding that the adaptations surely left a lot of important stuff out.

So I got Teatro Grottesco. Reading "Purity" that not-particularly-frightening feeling kicked in again. Before pondering if maybe Ligotti simply wasn't for me I decided to skip ahead and read "Sideshow, and other stories" on the basis that the title alone sounded intriguing. It was late at night and for some ineffable reason the climax of "the malignant matrix" really, and I mean really freaked me out. It made me stand up and turn the lights on (I was reading on the bed with only a small tablelamp on). I finished the cycle of stories that night, and made my way through the rest of book at a pace of one story per night. I realized Ligotti wasn't writing the kind of frightening horror I wanted in fiction, but rather the kind of existential dread that's a lot harder to express and to which not everyone will relate. I was hooked.
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Old 12-08-2016   #5
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

I first read Teatro Grottesco and My Work is Not Yet Done when I was fifteen or so. As a youthful depressive, I found his work very enlightening. I was a fan of Lovecraft, Poe, and Kafka, and Ligotti seemed to combine their styles. He added, however, his own millitant, thorough-going pessimism. I remember reading "The Red Tower" for the first time and being stunned by its ontological perversity. Ligotti really peaked my interest in surreal and decadent literature.
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Old 12-08-2016   #6
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

I was the same way with "The Red Tower". Of all of Ligotti's stories, it was the one that blew me away the most in my early reading of him. The story gave me shudders because it seemed to me -- and still seems to me --that it doesn't just rise to the level of the greatest stories of Poe and Lovecraft, but actually goes beyond them in terms of depth and literary quality and actually raises the bar for weird fiction, which is simply astonishing. I think the story needs a trigger warning or something to prepare you for the shock of its brilliance.
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Old 12-08-2016   #7
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

Damn right. Ligotti's work is metaphysically poisonous. Even the Conspiracy Against the Human Race is horrifying (in fact, it may be more horrifying than any of his stories). The first time I read it, it gave me a severe panic attack.
Stories like "The Red Tower" are visionary; I would almost like to view Ligotti as a sort of mystic, some sort of secular seer aware of a horrible reality underlying our own.
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Old 12-08-2016   #8
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

I first discovered Ligotti through the The Nightmare Factory comics adaptation, but this one is the first collection by him I owned:



Sadly, I forgot the book back home when I last moved six months ago, so I am waiting until Christmas to get it back.

Your fall should be like the fall of mountains. But I was before mountains. I was in the beginning, and shall be forever. The first and the last. The world come full circle. I am not the wheel. I am the hand that turns the wheel. I am Time, the Destroyer. I was the wind and the stars before this. Before planets. Before heaven and hell. And when all is done, I will be wind again, to blow this world as dust back into endless space. To me the coming and going of Man is as nothing.
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Old 12-08-2016   #9
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

The English hardcover of 'Grimscribe.' I knew little of Ligotti; I pretty much bought the collection cold, taking a chance on a virtual unknown whose name seemed only vaguely familiar. I got the Lovecraft and Poe vibes right away; in fact, I felt TL was far more elegant and metaphysical than Lovecraft.

Curiously enough, I saw TL namechecked in Caitlin Kiernin's 'Silk,' as in 'Ligotti's,' the name of a gothy junk shop. I loved the novel (though I've never read anything else by her), and that served to further my interest as well.

But it was 'Grimscribe,' 'Noctuary,' then all the rest. Many years later, I'm still compulsory about getting TL's publications.

Reading is the drinking of strange wine.
-Harlan Ellison
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Old 12-09-2016   #10
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Re: Your First Ligotti Collection

My first experience with Ligotti came at a Barnes and Noble in the mid- 1990s. I was wandering the aisles, as I often did, checking out all kinds of books from philosoph to history to religion to sci-fi/fantasy to horror. I was intrigued by horror, but there wasn't a lot that impressed me. Then I came across a copy of The Nightmare Factory (the story collection, not the comic version). I found the cover very intriguing and the name was particularly evocative to me. Perhaps what clinched it for me was Poppy Z. Brite's "Are you out there Thomas Ligotti?" introduction. This collection started a fascination with the stories, the ideas behind the stories, and the man behind the stories that has never lost its grip on me.

"What lay behind me was no longer any normal, familiar life, that everyday life out of which the impulse to pray raises us, with still at the back of our minds that whensoever we wish we can return. A void was behind me. And in front a wall, a wall of darkness." Georges Bernanos, The Diary of a Country Priest

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