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Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe (2015)

by Thomas Ligotti

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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7851228,527 (4.01)25
Fiction. Horror. Literature. Short Stories. HTML: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.
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Showing 1-5 of 12 (next | show all)
Ligotti writes very well. The best stories here are very good indeed, but like many collections of horror stories, they shouldn't all be read at once. As I proceeded into the second volume here (Grimscribe), I started to notice a sameness in the themes. Ligotti is always writing about hidden horrors, and the characters encounter them in a number of creative ways, but in the end it all amounts to the same thing. The obvious influence here is Lovecraft; however, Ligotti's writing is much more refined. Although he does like to use a wide vocabulary including some unusual words, his writing is always under control. It always has a tone that invites the reader in--but again--don't read these all in a row or your pleasure will definitely be reduced. ( )
  datrappert | Mar 18, 2024 |
(I only read half of this book, that is, all of the Songs of A Dead Dreamer section)

This is the kind of book that makes me really dislike writers. Ligotti seems like one of those guys who has spent way too much time in creative writing classrooms and workshops, reading a lot of middlebrow short fiction. I reckon that in every story I read I encountered 3 or 4 pointlessly esoteric words that could have (and should have) easily been edited out, words that the author probably wrote down in a moleskin somewhere so he could whip it out later and suss up his prose. When I first started reading this book I thought the fluffy language was an affectation of the first person narrator; I was disappointed to find that even in the third person stories there is a neckbeard-with-a-thesaurus-on-a fan-fiction-website level of purplishness. The author really seems like he can’t help himself.

The intro to the edition I read compared Ligotti to Kafka, which I had heard before and which attracted me to this book. This is a terrible comparison. Kafka is a profoundly funny writer, and Ligotti most definitely is not. Kafka mourns for the loss of humanity brought on by unconscionable systems. In this volume Ligotti offers little proof that he has ever interacted with another person. This is the profound loss of experience and inspiration that comes from finding your artistic voice through the academic and workshop pipeline - you write as a writer for other writers and not from any unique conception of reality, a conception that can only be built to satisfaction by finding something to say before your start blabbering away, pulling crossword puzzle words out of your moleskin.

I was reminded reading this of an extreme metal festival I once went to. The first couple bands I saw play were pretty cool. But after a few hours I became aware of, and exhausted by, the overbearing pressure of “genre” - these bands were so caught up in being metal that they became clownish. I started to get bored. Then one band had the gall, the brash iconoclasm to play a major chord. It felt like the roof was about to tear off to reveal god’s burning, beautiful eye placidly considering this flock of sheep play Halloween dress up. There are no major chords in this book. It’s all one twisted, cranky carnival music box that becomes a parody of itself after a while. I guess that’s always the risk when you are a “genre” writer. ( )
1 vote hdeanfreemanjr | Jan 29, 2024 |
Uma coleção de contos de terror, com o característico pano de fundo niilista e da indiferença existencial cósmica característica do autor. De influência lovecraftiana, Ligotti possui um estilo menos retorcido e pomposo, o que leva a uma prosa mais fluida e econômica.

Muitos contos da coletânea entretanto não me capturaram, e eu não gosto em geral dos finais abruptos, ou desistentes. Há alguns bem marcantes, entretanto. Em Canções de um Sonhador Morto: The Frolic e a ameaça impossível aterradora. Dr. Locrian Asylum e um método de união à indiferença do cosmos. The Music of the Moon, e a descrição de um silencioso concerto, lento ao inescapável.

Em Grimscribe: The Last Feast of Arlequin é um conto estilo Lovecraft pesquisador acadêmico encontra culto perigoso e proibido, melhor do que qualquer um do autor inaugural, ao meu ver. The Dreaming in Nortown também é notório na atmosfera estranha de contágio. The Night School recoloca os terrores dos diagramas e adornos simbólicos suspeitos no ambiente que teríamos pesadelos com estes, a escola. ( )
  henrique_iwao | Aug 30, 2022 |
Life is a nightmare that leaves its mark upon you in order to prove that it is, in fact, real. And to suffer a solitary madness seems the joy of paradise when compared to the extraordinary condition in which one's own madness merely emulates that of the world.

So...Thomas friggin' Ligotti...

Damn.

I took two long months to go through this book's 31 stories, because I realized very early on that Ligotti's subject matter and narrative style were not the same as most authors. This was not a book to be chewed through, but instead to be consumed in small, careful bites, savouring not just each story on its own, but virtually every carefully constructed sentence.

I don't know that I'd necessarily call this horror fiction. There's absolutely horror elements strewn through here. But there's also fantasy and perhaps a touch of science fiction, with a dollop of Lovecraftian cosmic horror mixed in to add a little spice.

Honestly, if I were to tag Ligotti's particular genre as anything, I'd simply term it "weird fiction"...because it's certainly weird.

There's not necessarily a lot going on in a Ligotti story. Don't look for action, or fight scenes, or love scenes, because there are none. Instead, his stories are home to very troubled individuals who have to go through situations and come to some sort of quiet, but impactful realization. But the settings they go through these situations in is what truly makes this weird. At times, the world seems just like ours, only he may shine a light on a darkened, previously ignored corner we hadn't noticed before. Other times, you've never experienced a world like this, or a house like this, or a person like this.

"We sleep...among the shadows of another world. These are the unshapely substance inflicted upon us and the prime material to which we give the shapes of our understanding. And though we create what is seen, yet we are not the creators of its essence. Thus nightmares are born from the impress of ourselves on the life of things unknown. How terrible these forms of specter and demon when the eyes of the flesh cast light and mold the shadows which are forever around us. How much more terrible to witness their true forms roaming free upon the land, or in the most homely rooms of our houses, or frolicking through that luminous hell which in pursuit of psychic survival we have name the heavens. Then we truly waken from our sleep, but only to sleep once more and shun the nightmares which must ever return to that part of us which is hopelessly dreaming."

Through the two months of reading these strange and wonderful (and I mean "wonderful" in the truest meaning of the word...these stories are full of wonder) stories, I struggled with how to describe Ligotti's writing. His lexicon is massive, and he busts out words I've never read before...but they're always the precisely right word. Always.

But it's more than that.

There's horror authors who come at a story like a serial killer to their victim, hacking and slashing, ripping and tearing, with no thought of finesse or subtlety. Probably a Graham Masterton type.

There's horror authors who come at a story like a butcher. They're still cutting, but now there's more expertise, more finesse, but it still gets messy. But you'll end up with some prime cuts. Probably someone like Joe R. Lansdale's horror stuff, or Skipp and Spector, back when they still liked each other.

Then there's the horror author surgeons. Now there's a lot of skill involved. There's subtlety, and there's true purpose. Their cuts are precise, and there's no wasted movements. Think Stephen King, Clive Barker, or Jack Ketchum.

And then there's Ligotti. He's the Hannibal Lecter of horror authors. He's got the requisite background knowledge and skill that he doesn't need to make a single cut. He cuts by getting into your mind. He flays with the precision of the words and thoughts not only that he uses, but that he puts into your mind, where they'll ricochet like small bits of targeted shrapnel. And if he does decide to actually cut, he has the most expensive instruments. The sharpest. And the steadiest hand. And when he cuts, he'll leave you forever changed. The scars won't be visible, but they'll always be felt.

That's what his writing is like. These stories, this author, are not to be read. These stories are to be experienced.

Behind the scenes of life lurks something pernicious that makes a nightmare of our world. ( )
1 vote TobinElliott | Sep 3, 2021 |
Adding a review of this book takes some time to think over the content as well as the author's other works, and the influences on this writer's style as well as his influence on other writers. So with that said, Ligotti's style of writing is very old school horror, and you can read his books without checking again to see when it was written as seems to have been written in the 1800s or perhaps Ligotti is channeling some dead authors. Skip to the current times, and there are rumors/accusations floating around the internet that writers of certain TV shows are lifting his materials verbatim.. . . not this particular book but other writings.

All I can say about is it's an interesting read, the stories seems formulaic, and it imposes a certain philosophy of life influenced by nihilism, Edgar Allan Poe, Stephen King, and other writers who can create unnerving tales. Certainly a talent to be reckoned with, and like Philip K. Dick, you are not sure where the boundary lies between creativity and mental illness. ( )
  kerryp | Jul 4, 2020 |
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VanderMeer, JeffForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Fiction. Horror. Literature. Short Stories. HTML: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.

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