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SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 01:56PM
Knygatin, thanks for the pointer to Ligotti. He's complex enough to be very intriguing.

I'd like to say up front that while I had read only one story (The Frolic), and had assumed that he and I had a similar world outlook, fairly soon thereafter I realized that we did not.



SPOILERS RE The Frolic

...







The Frolic is a conversation between a prison psychologist and his wife. He tells of a just *awful* inmate--one who is almost Hannibal Lechter-like, but in a different way. He has, within the context of the narrative, *no* redeeming social characteristics, and the psychologist, who had started as a self-admittedly idealistic individual, now sees no reason to attempt to rehabilitate at least individuals like John Doe (he has successfully withheld his name from authorities).

It was *this* realization, the futility if the *general* notion of rehabilitation that was popular for the last 80 or so years, and especially so in a world with a population of >7B people--that I was expressing as parallel to my own current outlook.

*That* was what I assumed Ligotti's worldview was. But now, 6 or 7 stories in, it is looking to me like he's often supplying the voice of deviancy of the worst sorts (like John Doe), and often told from the first person POV--he is supplying the actual voice, and thoughts, of severe social deviancy.

This isn't really anything like what I think is OK. I'm basically a traditionalist using the rationale of evolutionary mechanisms as a utilitarian explanation for what is demonstrable world reality.

So it's looking to me like Ligotti is a *very* scary guy. Not in any way "comfortable" in the same way that Dale uses as a thesis for his HPL paper.

Amusing finale...

I went to the Ligotti website with the intention of maybe signing up and participating there, but after perusing the posts to various topics, and looking at the *extremely* garish member avatars, I was reminded of my sole attendance at the PDX's incarnation of the H. P. Lovecraft Film Festival, for the year 2007. It was held at the Hollywood Theater (there's a section of PDX called Hollywood), a 1920's labyrinthine movie palace that is now owned and operated by a local film society.

There I saw many, many people with bizarre facial tattoos, implanted "horns" in their head, and facial hardware that included 4 inch blued steel spines that emerged from their cheeks, in the manner of a cat's whiskers.

I also saw what appeared to me like one gentleman who had tattooed the whites of his eyes a dark tattoo blue. I hope that this was actually specialize contacts (although this, too, begs the unfortunate question: who in the world would *want* such things enough to pay for them?), but I suspect that it was the real thing.

This was as much of this ambience as I wanted, and so felt no desire to join the Ligotti forum, which looked to be cut from the same questionable cloth. ;^)

I enjoyed some of the films, though.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 05:37PM
This was a quick new literary discovery, wasn't it?! And a SUPER THREAD already! Are you sure?


Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> So it's looking to me like Ligotti is a *very*
> scary guy. Not in any way "comfortable" in the
> same way that Dale uses as a thesis for his HPL
> paper.
>

He is making departures from the way we are used to reading horror stories. He tears down illusions, and plays havoc with the reader's mind and perception. Some say that his stories are not only about horror, they are the horror in themselves.

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 13 September, 2020 06:18PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> This was a quick new literary discovery, wasn't
> it?! And a SUPER THREAD already! Are you sure?

Hah!

Sure! Why not? I mean, it's not a commitment comparable to marriage, right?

;^)

>
>
> Sawfish Wrote:
> --------------------------------------------------
> -----
> > So it's looking to me like Ligotti is a *very*
> > scary guy. Not in any way "comfortable" in the
> > same way that Dale uses as a thesis for his HPL
> > paper.
> >
>
> He is making departures from the way we are used
> to reading horror stories. He tears down
> illusions, and plays havoc with the reader's mind
> and perception. Some say that his stories are not
> only about horror, they are the horror in
> themselves.

Within the context of postmodern western culture, they are horrors, themselves. They are plausible threats that any casual perusal of the news media for a year or so would confirm.

It seems to be descriptions of what might reasonably be expected from a society in the throes of saturation in late-stage decadence.

I had mentioned a while back that for about two months last year I followed and contributed to a website devoted to the Mason/Tate case. After a while the sheer volume of the details cause you to send enough time that you coincidentally begin to grasp the reality in which the Manson Family lived and it was a lot like what Ligotti writes about--except that Ligotti's stuff is much, much worse.

So I may read more of his stuff, but it most certainly is not "vacation material". It isn't stuff you look forward to reading more than once, and I'll almost bet he's not taught in the contemporary college classroom much.

You read "Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes", right? This is a really pretty *nasty* concept, exploited in a nasty milieu.

In a sense his stuff is closer to the notes to the police purported to have been written by Jack the Ripper. Boastful, taunting.

The sort of stuff that makes vigilantism seem like an admirable and righteous group activity.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 02:17AM
Excellent overview observations, Sawfish. I rarely analyze supernatural literature from that social perspective. I just dive into it, and let it affect me emotionally and aesthetically (either it is good, and convinces me, or else it isn't. That is my simple judgment. I want it to remain a supernatural illusion in my head. Otherwise I reject and forget about it.).

Yes, I really like "Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes". It is Poesque to my senses. I think Ligotti is a great prose writer, comparable to Lovecraft in lucidity and loaded meaning (not quite as good, but probably the best modern prose writer of horror). And he has humor (which I don't see in Lovecraft). (CAS has humor too, something I forgot to mention in an earlier post. Humor and horror do not conflict, when done with intended artistic insight. They marry very well.)
One scene in this story has especially stuck in my mind: A person is having a conversation in a room that has old-fashioned heavily textured and patterned wallpaper. In an attempt to be socially relaxed, he leans against the wall; but the wallpaper pattern confuses his sense of perspective, misjudging its distance, so he loses his balance, making a fool of himself. I find this brilliant, an example of descriptive details that Ligotti uses to distort the sense of reality. And it is funny and nightmarish at the same time.

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 11:53AM
Good exchange, Knygatin!

SPOLIERS...








First off, in referring to "Drink to me..." (DTM for our purposes), I had the wrong title. The story that I found to have a "nasty" concept was actually "Eye of the Linx", the *next* story in the collection. Concerns the commericialization of S&M in hidden clubs, and what sorts might find themselves attracted to this.

Very scary and sickening. Much more sickening/disgusting, when you contemplate the character of those main characters in the story, and you realize that for all those "goths" you used to see in the 80s--and also those attendees of the PDX HPL Film Festival that so deeply impressed me--there is something very weak and vulnerable driving it. A sickness of the soul really. And the narrative POV in "Eye of the Lynx" is a predator of that. Very "Jack-the-Ripper".

I'm not joking. Prior to the film festival, I had seen one or two of them within the context of my daily life--never completely immersed in all their questionable finery--maybe in a bookstore or something. But there at night, in the winding interior corridors, sconce-lit, of an old movie palace, lots of them, full regalia, talking together--the air of utter psychic illness comes off of them like a tsunami. They don't really scare you so much as a) disgust you, and b) make you want to try to keep your kid from suffering the strange and compelling fate that has befallen them. For me, there was never any real danger there (she turns out to be a sort of a skeptical middleweight wise-guy, a lot like her old man), but whatever has screwed them over so that they must play-act like this with their one-and-only lifespans, really, this is what you'd wish on dire enemies... (GULP!)

In my opinion, DTM is an excellent, *excellent* story. It, to me, is an extended social commentary on the crassness of modern society, in its lockstep pursuit of superficialities. Against all odds I found that I was aligned with the intent of the narrator's "joke"--in a sense it was the same basic revelation as is in the old movie, "The Magic Christian", where virtually everyone is revealed to have little to no sense of value.

Then there is the introduction of the little boy, upstairs, whom Ligotti introduces as a "normal" observer, not taken in by the mesmerist's ruse.

"Yucky", indeed.

The kid is also used to supply the route to the back door, as a way to advance the plot.

This one was enjoyable, to me.

Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Excellent overview observations, Sawfish. I rarely
> analyze supernatural literature from that social
> perspective. I just dive into it, and let it
> affect me emotionally and aesthetically (either it
> is good, and convinces me, or else it isn't. That
> is my simple judgment. I want it to remain a
> supernatural illusion in my head. Otherwise I
> reject and forget about it.).
>
> Yes, I really like "Drink to Me Only with
> Labyrinthine Eyes". It is Poesque to my senses.

Yes. Now that I've got the right story, I can see that it's something like "The Masque of the Red Death".

> I
> think Ligotti is a great prose writer, comparable
> to Lovecraft in lucidity and loaded meaning (not
> quite as good, but probably the best modern prose
> writer of horror).

Agreed.

If you judge him on the very first story in the collection, "The Frolic", you think maybe not--kinda clumsy with poor dialog, and what's worse, using a dialog expository to tell the entire story, except for the very loaded and frightening revelation at the end.

> And he has humor (which I don't
> see in Lovecraft). (CAS has humor too, something I
> forgot to mention in an earlier post. Humor and
> horror do not conflict, when done with intended
> artistic insight. They marry very well.)
> One scene in this story has especially stuck in my
> mind: A person is having a conversation in a room
> that has old-fashioned heavily textured and
> patterned wallpaper. In an attempt to be socially
> relaxed, he leans against the wall; but the
> wallpaper pattern confuses his sense of
> perspective, misjudging its distance, so he loses
> his balance, making a fool of himself.

Making a fool of one's self at a party of social luminaries is pretty much what the story is all about, in the implied ending. Boy, oh boy. Are all those glitteratti in for a BIG surprise when he rings the doorbell, huh? ;^)

Two more points...

1) He does not tell us what happens when he rings the bell--that happens immediately after the end of the story. This is an ***excellent*** way to handle it--he hints repeatedly what he has done, both to the audience (now the party attendees) and to his assistant, so you know damned well in your mind's eye, what's happening (and confirmed by the kid) and what's more, what *will* happen once they return from the mesmerized state.

I mean, you could find stuff to quibble over, conceptually, but this is *fantasy*, and in knowing this and deciding to invest the time to read it, all that it owes to the reader really is to not violate any of its own rules. If it has set no, or few, rules, well then it has a whole lot of freedom and leeway.

Stylistic/mechanical quibbles would still be valid, though.

2) Do you recall an HPL story (I think), told from the POV, 1st person, of what is revealed to be a decrepit corpse who awakens post-mortem, confused, knowing nothing of his present status, and returns to a party, scaring the bejeezus out of the attendees? He eventually sees himself in a mirror...

I *think* this is HPL, but am too settled in right now to look it up, but maybe it rings a bell with you.

> I find this
> brilliant, an example of descriptive details that
> Ligotti uses to distort the sense of reality. And
> it is funny and nightmarish at the same time.

I'm on "The Lost Art of Twilight" now. At one point in the collection, there is a section where he discourses on the various stylistic schools that can be used to write a horror story: realistic, gothic, experimental, etc. I didn't really get a lot out of it, in truth, and it seemed a little showy, like a juggler who has entertained and impressed you quite sufficiently, deciding to show you that he can do all the same stuff with razor-sharpened axes, or flambeaux.

Also, he's not an "atmospheric" writer, so far as I've seen. Not like Dale observes in his paper on the comfortable aspects of HPL.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 14 September, 2020 01:13PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> The story that I found to have a "nasty" concept was
> actually "Eye of the Linx", the *next* story in
> the collection. Concerns the commericialization of
> S&M in hidden clubs, and what sorts might find
> themselves attracted to this.
>
> Very scary and sickening.

I have not read "Eye of the Linx" and, hearing your description of it I am glad. Maybe God did not mean for me to. It is not included in my collection. Actually, after I had read my first Ligotti story, "Nethescurial", I got so excited, and there was no book available on the market, so I put together my own collection (from ebook texts) which I bound with glue and paper. My selection was based on recommendations, my own intuition and particular subject taste. I read "The Frolic" digitally, but it did not make the cut into my book.


> 2) Do you recall an HPL story (I think), told from
> the POV, 1st person, of what is revealed to be a
> decrepit corpse who awakens post-mortem, confused,
> knowing nothing of his present status, and returns
> to a party, scaring the bejeezus out of the
> attendees? He eventually sees himself in a
> mirror...
>

"The Outsider", Lovecraft's most famous story, once upon a time? Clearly a symbolic self-portrait. Classic.



> At one point in the collection, there is a section where
> he discourses on the various stylistic schools
> that can be used to write a horror story:
> realistic, gothic, experimental, etc. I didn't
> really get a lot out of it, in truth, and it
> seemed a little showy, like a juggler who has
> entertained and impressed you quite sufficiently,
> deciding to show you that he can do all the same
> stuff with razor-sharpened axes, or flambeaux.
>

"Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story". I agree with you completely on this one. I did not enjoy it very much.

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 16 September, 2020 08:31PM
Well, what I'm finding about Ligotti is that it would be very difficult to say that he's enjoyable to read, in any sense.

If you want to read him, I think you have to do it in moderate doses. Within the context of the first volume I got from the library, he gets somewhat repetitious, and unlike CAS and HPL, I believe that he actively *likes* the ideas he conveys. For them (HPL/CAS), I think they enjoyed the creative aspect of it--creation of entire worlds/universes--but I get the sense that Ligotti thinks he's revealing something to us that we didn't already know or suspect. In some cases he is correct, but in others, yep, we know abut them, and yep, we avoid them--less from threat or fear than from distaste.

E.g., did you notice how often the concept of torture in raised, either as a direct factor in a story, but much more frequently, as merely a device to intensify a situation--mentioning that something is like a torture, or that in the past, these tortures were used. He does this to a degree in even the few stories I've read that I begin to suspect a personal attraction to S&M, or other such marginal practices.

There's great talent, without doubt, and I think he may be influenced by Surrealists, and surrealist writings are very hard to read, very demanding, because they purposely depart from standard conventions, both in imagery and in theme.

In addition to this, he can be descriptively "muddy", using constructions that require several readings to unwind, and that could have been done more directly, without loss of effect. So you end up asking yourself: "What additional artistry was made available to me by wording a passage in such a way that I had to re-read it three times to make certain I had a relatively clear picture of what object he was describing or what idea he was conveying?"

So now that I get to this point, I guess I'm saying he makes many questionable aesthetic choices in conveying his message, in which he takes a great personal interest (can't fault someone for that) with an almost child-like fascination. Like as a kid walking along a country road, he found a 10 day old dead cat by the side of the road, turned it over with a stick, was shocked and impressed with what he found on the flip-side, and he's eager to tell us about it, feeling himself to now be a sophisticate.

Naturally, these are just opinions and could be wrong.

Your thoughts, Knygatin?

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2020 03:35AM
I don't have the tools to give a substantial reply to this, Sawfish. I have not read enough Ligotti to have formed a particular opinion. You have already read more than I, in only a few days.

I agree with much of your viewpoint. On the other hand, I don't seek pure entertainment in supernatural literature. I seek to be tilted and shook as well as having an aesthetic experience. To have my senses bent in weird ways. It must be ritual, it must go beyond "literature" and the academic "expert" conclusions of teacher-led literature criticism (I am not interested in plucking apart and analyzing literature under such socially standardized conditions. I am not interested in dissecting art, trying to outwit the artists. To some degree I have enjoyed a closer intellectual study when I can't understand a thing, as with some of CAS's poems.). Unpleasantness may be a part of the reading experience (but if it, to my perspective, is caused by immature or bad taste, then I am naturally not interested). That is why I dislike so much of mass market fantasy, and everything that comes out of Hollywood; because it is all commercially adapted to be entertainment and shallow pleasure for the human perspective.

I think perhaps Ligotti's (early) stories are uneven. I have greatly enjoyed a few of them, although they are not cozy. Others I did not like. It also concerns personal preference of subject matter. And his first collection that you have been reading may not be artistically fully formed.

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 18 September, 2020 11:01AM
This is a great exchange.

I think you've identified the main difference in the way we view written art (literature/poetry). In the purest sense, there's the emotional response, and this works like music--it sneaks in under the radar. This is *good*, and some of the best art I've enjoyed hit me immediately in that way.

However...

I don't approach prose in that way, and I don't know too much about poetry yet--and may never know much.

I get into the "how" in prose: I felt a degree of evocative power: "now how did he *do* that?" I mean, it's right there on the page...

I've also done this in certain sculptures: how did he technically accomplish this? To what degree is the composition dictated by the material?

Too, I usually am looking for a vacation when reading fiction, and this necessarily affects how I look at it. At most, I expect to derive *ideas* that I might test out to see if they are applicable to "real life", but these are seldom the main payload of the story.

So in this sense, I get few such ides from HPL or CAS.

Contrast this with a little observation in Seutonius's 12 Caesars describing Octavius's reasoning in supporting the effective end of the Republic. One factor I had never directly considered was brought up: that the republic worked well only so long as there was not a significant difference in wealth between all of those with the franchise. Once such a difference was established, demagogues were able to exploit these differences ad make them into divisions, and in doing so, shredded the social stability that the republic had enjoyed for about 460 years.

Now I have an idea to work with, and I'll probably test it for a couple of years, at least.

This is something I look for in non-fiction, and sometimes, I'll get little bits of this in fiction, also. Often, it will be an expressed idea by a character, and this character is the mouthpiece for the author's ideas.

But to get back to Ligotti, in some sense the *feeling* I got was similar to the feel I got reading Clive Barker. I'm not prepared to compare techniques or even style, but in both cases I got a certain underlying feeling of revulsion. Quite pervasive and quite consistent across stories. Not sure exactly why.

I'm not going to read any more Barker, bit likely will read more of Ligotti, from varying periods of his development.

Do you have any strong negative reactions to the works of certain authors? Not necessarily a reaction to poor quality or version to their style, but something about the way they present their thoughts--what worldview informs their sensibiities, and hence their narrative voice.

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Knygatin (IP Logged)
Date: 1 October, 2020 03:40PM
Sawfish Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
> Well, what I'm finding about Ligotti is that it
> would be very difficult to say that he's enjoyable
> to read, in any sense.
>
> I get the sense that Ligotti
> thinks he's revealing something to us that we
> didn't already know or suspect. In some cases he
> is correct, but in others, yep, we know abut them,
> and yep, we avoid them--less from threat or fear
> than from distaste.
>
> There's great talent, without doubt, and I think
> he may be influenced by Surrealists, and
> surrealist writings are very hard to read, very
> demanding, because they purposely depart from
> standard conventions, both in imagery and in
> theme.
>
> So now that I get to this point, I guess I'm
> saying he makes many questionable aesthetic
> choices in conveying his message, in which he
> takes a great personal interest (can't fault
> someone for that) with an almost child-like
> fascination. Like as a kid walking along a country
> road, he found a 10 day old dead cat by the side
> of the road, turned it over with a stick, was
> shocked and impressed with what he found on the
> flip-side, and he's eager to tell us about it,
> feeling himself to now be a sophisticate.
>

My guess at why you don't find Ligotti enjoyable, also concerns that you personality appears to be at the complete opposite end of Ligotti's. You seem very optimistic and cheerful, one who always sees the glass as half full rather than half empty. I am somewhere in-between, but the most pessimistic of his writings seem over-the-top in negativity to me too.

I would be curious to know how you define Robert Aickman and his work.

Re: SUPER THREAD: Ligotti
Posted by: Sawfish (IP Logged)
Date: 1 October, 2020 04:57PM
Knygatin Wrote:
-------------------------------------------------------
MY OLD STUFF DELETED...


>
> My guess at why you don't find Ligotti enjoyable,
> also concerns that you personality appears to be
> at the complete opposite end of Ligotti's. You
> seem very optimistic and cheerful, one who always
> sees the glass as half full rather than half
> empty. I am somewhere in-between, but the most
> pessimistic of his writings seem over-the-top in
> negativity to me too.
>
> I would be curious to know how you define Robert
> Aickman and his work.

Unfamiliar with Aickman.

I don't have to *like* the writer as a person, and in fact often know very little about their lives--and purposely so. It's the same with graphical artists--what would be the point of either liking or not liking Klimt. Would one need to like Caravaggio--or more to the point--his selected portrayals?

So with some of Goya's "Disasters of War", he's right on the edge...

This also bears on the peripheral discussions of our attempts at writing fiction, as acknowledged here on ED. I feel that I lack the talent, but beyond that, long ago I came to an important realization: that to write anything with the sort of artistic conviction required to achieve a product of internal integrity, I'd have to expose 'way, 'way too much of my innermost self. I am not that public of a personality.

So what I'm saying as it relates to Ligotti (and to Barker and to Ellroy, as per my other SUPER THREAD) is that if you have what I suspect these other writers have within them, it's a marginal aesthetic choice to share it publicly. In a sense, it's like dredging up religion and politics to muddy up your artistic vision.

Just my two cents...

Sawfish
~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~
"Life is a tragedy to those who feel, a comedy to those who think."



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