Thomas Ligotti – Teatro Grottesco – book review

Thomas Ligotti – Teatro Grottesco
Virgin Books, ltd.

I am late in discovering the talent of Thomas Ligotti considering his first collection had been published in 1986. However, I am glad Teatro Grottesco  is the first of his books that I read because it is the best collection to date and the most accessible to horror fans. Ligotti is mostly considered an author of strange fiction and weird tales but the end result is always horror no matter what path had been taken to get there. Upon reading the first story in this collection, Purity, I sat in my chair unmoving for several minutes. Then, I turned back to page one and re-read the whole story. Reading this story was like watching a magician perform an exceptional illusion. It was simultaneously bizarre and commonplace, eccentric and familiar, fantastic but low-key. This was not a fluke applicable to this one story. Indeed, I found myself re-reading several of the stories repeatedly as I tackled the book including, The Clown Puppet and Gas Station Carnivals.

Another quality of Ligotti’s style is that he seems to be the exception to every rule. Everything that my teachers and mentors have ever told me about becoming a published fiction writer, about my work, Ligotti embraces in his style. I was told, don’t write in first person if you want to get published; all of his stories are in first person. I am told I have too much exposition; some of his stories are loaded to the gills with exposition. I am told to be succinct, something Ligotti definitely is not. I am told to be careful of block writing; some of Ligotti’s stories have the first paragraph and subsequent paragraphs weighing in at a full page each. Just flip through the book and you will see page after page of text with few paragraph indents. I am told my writing is unduly formal; at times Ligotti seems to be writing a reference book rather than a fictional story. But it all works for him as he weaves interesting, strange, and fantastic tales that are as sincere as they are bizarre and stories that captivate the reader and drag them off to a place they have never been.

If you enjoy reading Lovecraft and Poe, you will most likely embrace Ligotti. If you prefer the streamline style of Dean Koontz, you may find Ligotti a bit overbearing. But try it out for yourself and make your own decision. Teatro Grottesco is a good place to start.

Stephen King – Full Dark, No Stars – book review

 Stephen King – Full Dark, No Stars
 Paperback edition
 Simon & Shuster / Pocket Books

If horror fans assumed Mr. King no longer had it within himself to go deep into the black pit of the human psyche, Full Dark, No Stars should set them straight. In fact, taking time to write novels of more literary acceptable subject matter (Hearts in Atlantis, The Green Mile), seemed to have only made the well of horror deeper and darker. “Full Dark…”  is a collection of stories that are brutally dismal and violent. King always has the knack for getting the reader to fully empathized with the characters in his stories, no matter what type of character they may be. I have never been a farmer but I fully understood the desperation of the farmer’s life in “1922”. We follow the lives’ of several other characters in “Full Dark,…” as they fall into the deep pit of nightmares. These stories are more grounded in reality than much of King’s previous works and at times, much like Poe, you question if something supernatural is actually happening or if the subjects are just loosing their respective minds. As a bonus, the paperback edition includes an extra story, titled, Under The Weather. This one is only twenty-five pages, the shortest of the collection but fits nicely within the theme of the book. If you had already purchased the Hardcover version of Full Dark, No Stars I would suggest downloading the extra story or just read it at your local bookstore.