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Who is Thomas Ligotti?
Who is Thomas Ligotti?
a short story inspired by a great writer
Published by Russell Nash
09-28-2008
Who is Thomas Ligotti?

Who is Thomas Ligotti?

I rubbed my eyes strongly, with both hands, and I decided to read what I had written without stopping until the final period of the last sentence. It could have one of the following titles, I said to myself that any:

"Who is Thomas Ligotti?"
"The conspiracy of Thomas Ligotti"
or simply "The nonexistence of Thomas Ligotti.

The first thing that was written I read it exaggeratedly aloud. It would seem that I was speaking to a deaf person, not to a born deaf (to whom it would have been useless to even speak) but to one of those who have lost hearing over the years. Then I read it again in silence, only with the eyes, like some people still read their Bibles in churches. "Thomas Ligotti does not exist. This writer of ominous short stories and essays of horror is merely an invention of the imagination of other writers of the stature of Ramsey Campbell and Clive Barker." Of these two I was sure; of others, I could take a chance on some names swearing to me that I would not be wrong in my choice either. The theory was not original, it had been proposed unsuccessfully by Gwilym Games a few years ago.
There was no evidence, beyond a few short stories signed as Thomas Ligotti, with almost identical signature in all the cases, and some scarce photographs, only three were known, that Ligotti existed. Unlike Gwilym Games, my approach was focused on what others said, taking each of these assertions, then refuting them one by one, logically, contradicting some opinions with others. Probably, I wanted to believe, the idea would have been taken from Martin Margiela, a prestigious Belgian designer of whom it is not known any photograph as an adult. And although he continues to exhibit his new clothing collections and his brand acquires reputation over the years, he appears neither in his fashion shows, nor in the group photographs, in which his place is replaced by an empty chair. So does Margiela exist? So does Ligotti exist?
The three photographs of him that are known are (I dare to say) identical, I would say that they were not taken but in the same minute and from different angles. Born in 1953, in Detroit, one could not stop thinking that at first sight it seems strange that nobody yet showed up with some old school photograph, or next to a childhood friend, or that anybody offered to sell a photograph of him, and with this fact to prove once and for all that Ligotti exists. But this has not been the case. Ligotti does not seem to have but an invented past, as improbable as some of his most famous stories.
...That he has received the Bram Stoker Award in 1996, twice? Yes, and what does it prove? Where are the photographs, the testimonies of those who have been there that day watching him receiving the awards? The biography of Ligotti has borrowed perhaps some fragments of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s, of whom it is said spent two years living as a recluse. Which is extremely curious: was it not that he had been a politician for several years? How then would he have lived a life inside four walls, preserve his sanity, and later represent his country? ...Does it make sense whatsoever?
Some literary critics point out that Ligotti was in and out of psychiatric institutions. ...Ligotti, a madman? Be it not but a contradiction since it is said that he also worked for 23 straight years for a firm in Detroit. Here it is seen some influence of Jean Ray, of whom it is also said that he would have invented his own autobiography, like having traveled all over the world being employed in a ship (What ship? When?), having trafficked arms (perhaps would anybody who would have done it shout the news from the rooftops?), and other lies that I could hardly tell without laughing to myself.
The rest of my essay was full of accurate data, dates, names, addresses, all of which could be verified, which finally showed that Ligotti did not exist before the ‘80s. It was as if he was born all of a sudden like the Golem of Meyrink. I gave him the same real existence that the character of "The circular ruins" by Borges whom nobody saw disembarking in the unanimous night. I had wanted to include Borges among the creators of Ligotti but Borges was already dead on those days.
In a letter received from Mark Samuels (author of "Vrolyck" and "The Metempsychosis of William Brooks" among other stories), he let me know that he had been offered a sum, without specifying which one, to add something to the Gestalt personality of Ligotti. This is my final proof but I have lost the letter. I should be trusted on this point.
Finally, I prefer not to let know my reasons to affirm that I see in the personality of Ligotti strokes of the pen of Ramsey Campbell, Clive Barker, and others, that as I said, have always flatly denied the fact. But, and the interviews to Ligotti? ...What about them? Many interviews are works of fiction, have never happened. Many, and I would not be wrong when saying with certainty that almost all, are only written a posteriori, in front of a computer, pondering each word, copying quotations, inflating phrases like birthday balloons with air.
I'd rather finish here, I said, concluding that a writer like Thomas Ligotti, so vast, so exquisite with the words, so sunk in the mantle of the deepest mystery, does not exist.

***

The sun would be setting because I confess that the evening began to darken very quickly. "What do you think about what I have read?" I asked Thomas Ligotti, who was in front of me, leaning one side against that window, in his house in Florida.
He did not answer. I imagined that he would say that he had already heard that theory sometime ago, somewhere. But he did not say it. He said nothing. I wanted him to tell me if he realized that what I wrote would only make his existence even more unreal than it was already.
While he had his back to me, I saw no resemblance in him to any of the three photographs that I had already seen. I did not see him as Rasputin (as he said to me, thus they would have thought that he looked like long time ago), I saw him sideways, I repeat that the light of the dying sun was still blinding my eyes, I thought seeing in him the face of Hodgson, William Hope Hodgson, or I was wrong and I also saw Mark Twain’s. When he turned back it came to my mind a few fragments from Hesse's Siddhartha and I said to myself that I saw in him the face of all mortals, the face of a beggar, that of a rich, that of an adulterer, that of an ordinary man walking down some dusty road in remote and unheard-of places. ...Would they all see it if I had taken a photograph of him at that moment? Then I thought I saw through him as if he were invisible, an invention of the imagination of other writers, and only a silhouette remained of what he was only a second before.
I preferred, however, to tell him simply that he looked like the astronaut Scranton, the man who had walked on the Moon, in the story by Ballard.
He went back to look out of the window, and just told me: "Scranton, eh?" Then he roared with laughter. Would H. P. Lovecraft have laughed the same way if somebody had whispered to the ear that many said that he did not exist either? These are answers that we will never know.
15 Thanks From:
Aetherwing (09-28-2008), Andrea Bonazzi (03-02-2009), barrywood (09-28-2008), bendk (04-17-2009), Cyril Tourneur (02-28-2009), Danny Mason Keener (07-18-2012), Doctor Munoz (02-28-2009), G. S. Carnivals (02-28-2009), Ligeia (09-28-2008), miguel1984 (06-26-2015), Mr. D. (04-16-2009), qcrisp (04-17-2009), starrysothoth (03-01-2009), Steve Dekorte (04-16-2009), Waterdweller (09-28-2008)
  #1  
By barrywood on 09-28-2008
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

Inquisitive, and good writing.
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  #2  
By Doctor Munoz on 02-28-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

Hello Alberto. I think your story-essay is good and obsessed and powerful, and maybe too heavy on literary references. On the other hand I don't think Ramsey Campbell, a good writer as he is, could write Ligotti's prose, not even under THE INFLUENCE (great novel this) of substances. Unlike Angela Carter; she had the musical ear, that genius for the soaring imagery, the breathtaking turn of phrase, mind and heart playing with the same throbbing pulse, you know, everything that makes a superb writer. I think Mrs. Carter writes Ligotti into literary life. I know she is dead, but that shouldn't prevent us from daring speculation.

On this line of thought, you are welcome to doubt about my own existence and I will doubt about yours, and both, about the master troubled reality. This mutual suspicion appears to me like an ideal foundation, however feeble, for comradeship. At the end of the day, this kind of doubts always come true. Nothing to do about it.
Keep with the good work. I promise to read more stories by you. You struggles gallantly with the English language and I feel close to you for it. Un saludo.
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  #3  
By Russell Nash on 03-01-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

In 1981, it began to circulate a preposterous speculation in Buenos Aires. Jorge Luis Borges did not exist, but he was an invention of other contemporary well known writers like: Bioy Casares, Leopoldo Marechal, and Mujica Lainez. Leonardo Sciascia wrote “The nonexistent Borges” referred to Borges, in Il Messaggero. Would he have been this second-rate actor Aquilles Scatamacchia, of whom Sciascia talks about? The answer is no: I MYSELF SAW BORGES. But it was from these ludicrous speculations that a similar idea came to my mind: to do the same but with Ligotti.
El hueco del viernes: Y si Borges no hubiera existido? (in Spanish)

I did not see Ligotti. I was receiving emails from a certain Ligotti, a few signed and dedicated books (I would say with “identical” handwriting as if it were a machine and not a real man writing from the other side). There is no picture, practically all the interviews done to Ligotti say the same. What else? Unlike Ramsey Campbell who even have short videos in youtube, there is not a real picture of Ligotti, not the 3 or 4 touched up with Photoshop. Some say they have seen him, although there are many that assert to have seen God face to face like Moses. And so what? I even thought that he was an invention of G S Carnivals or Dr Bantham, or Nemonymous. Logic tells me that Ligotti exists and that he has preferred the mystery that goes so well with his horror stories. Nevertheless, until I see a picture of him the doubt always exists. Finally, if he exists or not, doesn’t really matter at all, whoever he is, he writes excellent prose.

Angela Carter, yes, I like the idea.

“I doubt, therefore I think.” (page 237, The Selected Prose of Fernando Pessoa).
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  #4  
By Ascrobius on 03-01-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

Assuming that the question being posed here as to whether or not Thomas Ligotti exists is a rhetorical one, I can say that he does, in fact, exist, though he might argue with that assertion, at least to a certain extent.
I must admit, however, that the conspiratorial assertion that he does not is infinitely more romantic and compelling a notion.
Tim
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  #5  
By Nemonymous on 03-02-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

Quote Originally Posted by Ascrobius View Post
I must admit, however, that the conspiratorial assertion that he does not is infinitely more romantic and compelling a notion.
Tim
We all have a similar romantic and compelling notion about life itself, even if we are of a perceived Ligottian frame of mind. To say life does not exist means that it does. But not vice versa.
Its essence I call the Nemo.
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  #6  
By Steve Dekorte on 04-16-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

Quote Originally Posted by Ascrobius View Post
Assuming that the question being posed here as to whether or not Thomas Ligotti exists is a rhetorical one, I can say that he does, in fact, exist, though he might argue with that assertion, at least to a certain extent.
If existence isn't merely sense contents, but the ego which grants them the illusion of meaning, then may a person suffering from depersonalization disorder, at times, not meaningfully exist?
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  #7  
By Ascrobius on 04-16-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

Pardon the pun, but that's getting into territory that's rather, ummm, well...existential, isn't it? Aside from the obvious philosophical implications that arise.

Nothingness (Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy)
Tim
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  #8  
By Mr. D. on 04-16-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

You know, sometimes I've wondered if I were really pushed into a corner could I prove that I existed. If I could prove it to my own satisfaction could I prove it to someone else? Who knows?
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  #9  
By G. S. Carnivals on 04-16-2009
Re: Who is Thomas Ligotti?

I think too much. Therefore I am. Maybe.
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