Nate D's Reviews > Teatro Grottesco

Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti
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's review
Jun 14, 11

bookshelves: read-in-2011, stories, horror
Recommended to Nate D by: carnies and fortune-tellers
Recommended for: artists who burn their work and disappear
Read from April 21 to June 14, 2011

It's entirely unsurprising to learn that Thomas Ligotti is from Detroit. His storytelling is suffused in a certain distinctly post-industrial sense of destruction and despair. This context is especially prevalent in the neighborhood descriptions of opening tour-de-force "Purity" which shoves several disquieting philosophical principles through a slalom of screwed-up events, ranging from explicit action to entirely sub-narrative suggestions. All told in the conversational voice of an eerily unfazable child narrator, too used to his family to register what goes on around him, perhaps. It's a fantastic story all around. It's also the least typical. The best aspect of the others is the endless narratorial ruminations which explore Ligotti's unsettling concepts, an excellent literary device aptly likened to Thomas Bernhard. The worst aspect of the other stories is that they seem to largely depend on the sideshow theme encapsulated by the collection title. Why Ligotti feels the need to delve into such horror genre cliches as creepy puppets and carnivals and showmanship seems entirely inexplicable to me, but it's not just a recurring element. It actually seems to be the chosen unifying concept to the collection, like his later "tales of corporate horror". That Ligotti's conceptual goals for these overused devices are so weird and removed from their usual appearances only partly helps. I can think of ways of justifying them, none of which are actually preferable to just not using cliches at all. It's just unneccessary and allows a suggestion of camp into his work that is entirely at odds with the actual content. Of course, Ligotti is often an amazing writer of prodigious imagination, so it's pretty easy to overlook these issues in the enjoyment of individual stories like "The Town Manager", "Severini", and "Gas Station Carnivals". I just can't completely get a read on his goals here.
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Comments (showing 1-2 of 2) (2 new)

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knig Hmm, Purity belongs to the first cycle, which I liked best. But, the most atypical, unusual story for me was The Town Manager. Purity had a lot of stuff going on, but ultimately the brain-drain Frankesteinian, Silence-of-the-Lambs motifs have been done albeit it from different angles. Also, the syphoning scene in Purity reminds me of the Squirrel Machine (p133-136). Gas station carnivals had a clever inverse twist at the end: I keep thinking I've seen this before, but can't quite crystallise the recollection. Perhaps a little like Amenabar's 'The Others?'

Nate D Yeah, the Town Manager was another favorite, though it was already edging into the scary-carnival territory a bit. I meant that Purity was the least typical of the collection and of the Ligotti's voice, though you're right that he's repurposing familiar elements.

What I like about Gas Station Carnivals and several others is how there dread rests on these very specific, rarefied moments drawn out indefinitely. All horrible anticipation without outlet.

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