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Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe by…
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Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe

by Thomas Ligotti

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A collection of well regarded but none the less, early work by Ligotti, that deals with a variety of macabre subjects. He has a style reminiscent of Nabokov but also of a form of higher literature than most Cthhulhu fans are used to. Literate, and in the most part, engaging me some these tales are truly haunting, with some very unpleasant but highly memorable plots and situations. For those with an interest in weird fiction, his is a collection not be missed, but if you're new to the game, then this probably isn't the place to start. Haunting, truly is the word. ( )
  aadyer | Sep 26, 2016 |
This volume collects Thomas Ligotti's first two books of short fiction: Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1985) and Grimscribe: His Life and Works (1991), with a new introduction by Jeff VanderMeer. These stories are all in the vein of supernatural horror, but with a distinctive tenor of pessimistic surrealism. VanderMeer notably compares Ligotti to Franz Kafka, Angela Carter, and David Lynch.

Songs of a Dead Dreamer is divided into three sections: "Dreams for Sleepwalkers," "Dreams for Insomniacs," and "Dreams for the Dead." Each of these ends with a story which involves critical reflexivity regarding the horror genre: "Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story," "Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Horror," and "Vastarien," respectively. This first collection shows many of the tropes that Ligotti uses to communicate disquiet and the uncanny: puppets, masks, vegetable growth, insects, and others. The central section "Dreams for Insomniacs" has a few tales that work in well-defined weird subgenres, such as the Christmas ghost story of "The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise," the vampire story in "The Lost Art of Twilight," and sword & sorcery in "Masquerade of a Dead Sword."

"The Sect of the Idiot," opening with a quote from The Necronomicon, shows Ligotti's familiarity with the Lovecraftian corpus and its virtues, but is neither a pastiche nor an instance of Yog-Sothothery per se. More Lovecraftian in its overall texture is the longest Grimscribe story "The Feast of Harlequin," which is overtly dedicated to HPL. The things that most tie Ligotti's work to this predecessor are a preoccupation with dreams, a philosophical pessimism, and a general effort to portray the violation of metaphysical norms.

Ligotti's occasional representations of contemporary occultism and secret societies are highly credible, despite the anti-naturalism of his style. He affords addictive tomes, obscure ceremony, and exotic drugs, often with libidinal contexts/subtexts. Like Lovecraft, he prefers his grimoires to be as invented as his characters, but he does show a familiarity with actual occult tradition by invoking Austin Osman Spare (in "In the Shadow of Another World"). The magic employed by sorcerers in these stories is sometimes grounded in powerful hypnotic suggestion.

The stories of Grimscribe are all told in the first person by unnamed narrators, and an introduction establishes the conceit that these are received texts, drawn from a pool of consciousness through an authorial function personified by Ligotti as "Grimscribe." These are then grouped into "Voices" characterizing the specific narrators, such as "The Voice of the Demon" (culpable narrators) and "The Voice of the Child" (juvenile narrators). The final section "The Voice of Our Name" contains only the single story "The Shadow at the Bottom of the World." This last tale seems especially suited to seasonal reading, for those who want an elegant text to instill horror into Hallowe'en observances.

I would be hard-pressed to select a favorite from this book. There is not a dud among the 33 stories assembled here.
11 vote paradoxosalpha | Apr 15, 2016 |
The thing I loved most about Ligotti's uncanny and unnerving short story collection Teatro Grottesco is that it made this world seem otherworldly in the most insidious ways and made the mundane into the horrific. This compendium of earlier work, however, feels like it relies on easy formulas and canned weirdness that have been done before and done much better. I'd heard praise of these collections in the same breath as Teatro Grottesco so I'd thought I'd be in for a similar experience. Some of the themes are similar, but they are executed in the most expected and obvious ways. These stories border on juvenilia, published by Ligotti in his thirties and written who knows how long before then, yet these stories are praised as vehemently as "The Red Tower" or "In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land". In genre fiction, there is a lot of really bad writing, so even Ligotti's average or mediocre work seems somewhat polished by that standard. A few stories here like "The Frolic" or "The Night School" reminded me why I love his material, but in comparing the bulk of these collections to his later stories there is no contest. ( )
3 vote poetontheone | Nov 8, 2015 |
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Thomas Ligottiprimary authorall editionscalculated
VanderMeer, JeffForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Amazon.com Product Description (ISBN 0143107763, Paperback)

Two terrifying classics by “the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction” (The Washington Post)
 
Thomas Ligotti’s debut collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, and his second, Grimscribe, permanently inscribed a new name in the pantheon of horror fiction.  Influenced by the strange terrors of Lovecraft and Poe and by the brutal absurdity of Kafka, Ligotti eschews cheap, gory thrills for his own brand of horror, which shocks at the deepest, existential, levels.

Ligotti’s stories take on decaying cities and lurid dreamscapes in a style ranging from rich, ornamental prose to cold, clinical detachment. His raw and experimental work lays bare the unimportance of our world and the sickening madness of the human condition. Like the greatest writers of cosmic horror, Ligotti bends reality until it cracks, opening fissures through which he invites us to gaze on the unsettling darkness of the abyss below.

For more than sixty-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,500 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

(retrieved from Amazon Mon, 17 Aug 2015 06:34:42 -0400)

Ligotti eschews cheap, gory thrills for his own brand of atmospheric horror, which shocks at the deepest, existential, levels. Ligotti's stories take on decaying cities and lurid dreamscapes in a style ranging from rich, ornamental prose to cold, clinical detachment. His raw and experimental work lays bare the unimportance of our world and the sickening madness of human consciousness. Like the greatest writers of cosmic horror, Ligotti bends reality until it cracks, opening fissures through which he invites us to gaze on the unsettling darkness of the abyss below.… (more)

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