“We leave this behind in your capable hands, for in the black-foaming gutters and the back alleys of paradise, in the dank windowless gloom of some galactic cellar, in the hollow pearly whorls found in sewerlike seas, in starless cities of insanity, and in their slums … my awe-struck little deer and I have gone frolicking.”
from ‘The Frolic’
Here is a book that lives up to its title as a manufacturer of nightmares. I had read a scattered few of Thomas Ligotti’s stories before, but read back-to-back their power seems almost multiplied, as though you are losing yourself beneath an ocean of demented darkness. We have recognisable horror tropes in serial killers, manikins, monsters and madness, but there is something entirely fresh and carnal about the way they are presented, almost as a cloak, a thin skin below which pulses the real horror, pressing against the world, against reality and rationality and in some small places leaking through, giving rise to the maddening power behind Ligotti’s prose.
Personal favourites include ‘The Frolic’, ‘Dream of a Mannikin’, ‘Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes’, ‘Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech’, ‘The Music of the Moon’, ‘The Spectacles in the Drawer’, ‘The Medusa’, ‘Mrs. Rinaldi’s Angel’ and ‘The Voices in the Bones’. The collection is so large, however, that provided you enjoy the writing, there are stories for everyone.
The writing itself is beautiful. There is no other way to describe it. I am sure it will not be to everyone’s taste, befitting Ligotti’s reputation as a cult writer, but for me it represents the pinnacle of literature. Through rich language, surreal sequences, dreams and dark allusions, we are drawn into the worlds of Ligotti’s stories, which so closely resemble our own – and do not. The fact that I only intended to write a few sentences here is a testament to my feelings towards this book.
For aficionados of: Lovecraft, rich description, surreal fiction, Carter’s The Bloody Chamber, and psychological/philosophical/Gothic horror.