Michael W. Clune on Ligotti (and “the psychology of cosmic horror”):
Things are not what they seem. This is the mantra and the practice of cosmic horror. Lovecraft wrote stories in which familiar appearances — mountains, stars, old New England houses — melt away from things that now wear an unspeakably different aspect. While the focus in Lovecraft is always on the alien reality below the appearances, Ligotti is fascinated by the simple capacity of changing appearances to suggest a different reality. He pursues the inhumanist psychology of the process in which appearances come loose from their anchor in the human world.
An erratic overview, with an off-beam title. This — for instance — is absolutely not getting it: “… the essential quality to truly terrify: an aspect of the unreal.”
This, though, is getting it:
Ligotti’s stories, which have been reissued in a new Penguin Classics volume that brings together the books “Songs of a Dead Dreamer” and “Grimscribe,” are fugues of the creeping unknown. They often begin with a moment of banality: a visit to a new town, an academic’s research project, the tearing down of an old building. His narrators are fairly nondescript, if occasionally a tad morose. But they are all sensitive to or attracted by a slight bend in reality. Something leaks through into the known world, and the protagonist, often already on the edge of sanity, is doomed by the encounter with whatever it is — say, the spectre of a demolished house that seems to exist in a liminal place between wintry nights and the realm of the dead.
Horror is about nothing at all except reality. Unreality is for everything else.
Some reading suggestions from Thomas Ligotti, including this temptation:
The weirdest stories I’ve ever read composed the collection Hollow Faces, Merciless Moons (1977) by William Scott Home. The prose is so complex and recondite that it’s all but unreadable, much like that of Clark Ashton Smith. Furthermore, Home’s narratives are baffling and sometime barely comprehensible, somewhat in the manner of Robert Aickman. For a while I thought that Home was either an inexpert writer or a mental case.
(More Ligotti at the WFR here. Plus a story.)
After the story, the interview. It ends well:
I’m hopeful that my work will reach the right audiences, what I called “sympathetic organisms” in my story “Severini.” Unfortunately, those individuals did not come to a pleasant end. Who does?
Ligotti becomes the story in The Wall Street Journal:
Mr. Ligotti’s stories are light on action and heavy on dread. Their motifs include puppets, harlequins, dying towns, deranged loners and the notion that humanity is an aberration spat out by a chaotic void. “There’s an inevitability about his fiction—of decay, rot, horror, the slow and unavoidable descent into darkness—that I find irresistible,” said Livia Llewellyn, a Shirley Jackson Award-nominated writer who contributed a story to “The Grimscribe’s Puppets,” an anthology tribute to Mr. Ligotti edited by Mr. Pulver. According to the scholar and critic S.T. Joshi, Mr. Ligotti is one of the premier writers of so-called weird fiction over the past 50 years. But Mr. Joshi isn’t convinced of the author’s appeal beyond the genre. “Without a thorough familiarity with [Messrs. Poe and Lovecraft], some readers may not ‘get’ what Ligotti’s tales are about, or come away with an incomplete understanding of them,” he said. Others, such as Mr. VanderMeer, said Mr. Ligotti has transcended Mr. Lovecraft’s shadow.