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There is a Greater Blackness

1 Dec


With doomsday scenarios giving shape to all your kids’ Playstation gameage, eco-collapse looming down every aisle of your local green grocer, and very real signs of global financial collapse damn near everywhere else, it’s a stumper why more startlingly-bleak writers such as Thomas Ligotti haven’t bobbed up through the murk as of late. I, for one, could use more of his brand of black-hole plummet fiction. Ligotti’s creepy meditations on nothingness act as vindication to those of us who know THE BIG FEAR all too well. And I’m guessing more of us then let on know a little something about THE BIG FEAR. He’s got a great, new-to-paperback anthology out entitled Teatro Grottesco (Virgin Books, 2008), in which he spins a series of yarns that dig deeper into the worrying, gnostic nature of cosmic nonsense than anyone in their right mind ought to.

But it’s Ligotti’s Crampton book + CD from a few years back, co-written with Brandon Trenz, that for me stands as the real contender in the apocalyptic fantasy sweepstakes of the new millennium. Apparently this work began life as an X-Files teleplay (would be curious to hear just what the network slushpile hacks made of this!), eventually morphing into a Scully/Muldor-less narrative that David Tibet’s Durtro Press – god bless ’em – published in 2003. It’s still a teleplay, which only adds a extra level of disturbing confusion to the cosmically paranoid prose that is Ligotti’s trademark.

Beginning as a fairly straightforward detective narrative, our fearless protagonists quickly find themselves sliding off the roadmap and in to that horribly unspeakable place we all know exists, but few dare to tell of. You know: that place where ventriloquist dummies eye you just a little too closely, waitresses in out-of-the-way diners know what you’re gonna say before you even think it, and clowns in tricolor wigs make you the butt of maddening practical jokes that are just not funny. And then as you feel you might be able to at least get oriented, he yanks the damn rug away, leaving you suspended Wile E. Coyote-like for a spilt second above the biggest, blackest hungry mouth you never got a chance to feed. Yeah Crampton is that place where even someone like dumb George W. is a mere pawn in a bigger, more twisted game, a game that makes even less sense than the one we’re all caught in now.

And what could top this madness, but an accompanying CD entitled The Unholy City of musically-driven “dream texts”, all which swirl associatively around the very same horrific obsessions! The 6 cuts found therein – spoken prose pieces backed by darkly repetitive, guitar-based soundtracks inspired by THE SHADOWS and SANTO & JOHNNY- were created entirely by Ligotti himself in his home studio in Bunghole, America. Here our maestro comes to life like the midwestern-born twin of Boyd Rice you also guessed he was. I find myself returning to these recordings for reassurance-in-reverse whenever I’m feeling utterly subsumed by THE BIG FEAR. Which is not infrequently.

Do read Ligotti my friends. Then pray the doll ambling across your bedroom floor didn’t just wink at you.

THOMAS LIGOTTI – “You Do Not Own Your Head” (Durtro Press, 2003)