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Grimscribe: His Lives and Works

4.14  ·  Rating details ·  1,468 ratings  ·  117 reviews
Grimscribe: His Lives and Works is the second volume in a series of revised, definitive editions of the horror story collections of Thomas Ligotti. First published in 1991 by Carroll & Graf in the United States and Robinson Publishing in England, Grimscribe garnered significantly more recognition than Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, which was issued tw ...more
Hardcover, 256 pages
Published 1991 by Carroll & Graf
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Bill Kerwin

Ligotti's second collection of short tales is a considerable advance on his first. I won't deny that Songs for a Dead Dreamer contains a number of effective stories, but the collection as a whole is uneven, and many of its most powerful effects occur in stories that are not in themselves successful. This is due primarily to an immaturity of style. Ligotti was not yet capable of fashioning a world that could contain his most characteristic phantasms, and many of his personal horrors appear to be
Glenn Russell
Oct 27, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

After bathing in the dark imagination of American contemporary horror fiction writer Tomas Ligotti’s first collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer, I was keen to read his second book of thirteen macabre yarns entitled Grimscribe.

My experience did not disappoint – in the tradition of Poe and Lovecraft, absolutely first-rate, well-crafted bizarre and ghoulish narratives told by first-person narrators to make your hair stand on end and keep you up at night. As by way of example, I will focus on two ee
Paul Christensen
The Last Feast of Harlequin
An academic’s discovery of a subterranean worm cult gives Ligotti a chance to showcase his anti-natalist views.

The Spectacles in the Drawer
Ligotti’s anti-natalist views are on full display as a pair of glasses prove all mysteries are meaningless.

Flowers of the Abyss
Don’t go into the darkness beyond the darkness, or you might become an anti-natalist.

Existence is the nightmare of a demonic demiurge, thus an anti-natalist philosophy is advisable.

The Glamour
Mar 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: read-fiction
I’ve decided to re-review this almost a year after reading it, because I’ve decided that Ligotti might just be one of the best authors of short stories that (most) people have never heard about.

This isn’t something that I say very often: best. In order to explain myself, assuming that you haven’t already started ignoring me, I’m going to need to compare Ligotti to some other writers.

We’ll start with what Ligotti is not; Stephen King. Now, most people know who Steven King is. If you’ve never rea
I think it's me, not Ligotti. Well, maybe it's him too. I'm not a great fan of endless-narrative-without-dialogues cosmic horror, although I've quite read and loved Lovecraft in my time. But Lovecraft is Lovecraft and Ligotti is Ligotti but, for some reason, he wants to be Lovecraft. I mean yes, his prose is haunting but his style isn't his own and I usually prefer to read the original, if possible. At all times, it felt like reading Lovecraft and that turned me off. If I wanted to read Lovecraf ...more
Benjamin Uminsky
This collection is really my first full exposure to Ligotti. I certainly have read a story or two, but never a full collection.

I think, to this point, I have never read a modern horror author that does what Ligotti does with his stories (particularly in the use of his prose style). The only modern author that leaves me feeling a bit tainted like Ligotti, is Laird Barron. Barron's stories just stick with you, often because of the monstrous things he does to his characters. Ligotti on the other h
Jan 12, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Re-reading this collection five years later I am once again impressed with everything -- the prose, the originality and the explorations of Ligotti's philosophy.

I won't re-write my old review, but I know I enjoyed almost every story here more this time around than I seemed to originally. It's multi-dimensional writing you can turn over and over in your mind that improves with repeated reading.


This is intimidating, how do I even begin? Late last year I was completely blown away by
Jovana Autumn
This book was brilliant from start to finish. I never get scared while reading horror but this got me scared shitless. So the atmosphere was there.

When I pick up a horror book I have two criteria: for the atmosphere to be dreadful so that I can actually feel frightened and to enjoy the narration.

Both were great here.

I must change my rating and give it a 5 star because a lot of the stories are still vivid in my head. In a sense, the writers’ style reminds me of the legendary Edgar Allan Poe,
Till now, Teatro was my favorite collection, and that still stands... well kind of...

I'm feeling obliged to give it a 5-star rating... I'm not sure why on earth I rated Teatro a 4! Probably I've gone mad.

When I first started this book, my senses as a reader werer telling me that it's somewhat inferior to the previous collection, Songs of a Dead Dreamer. The first piece, "The Last Feast of Harlequin", was very good, but the immediate next stories in that section didn't make much impression on me.
Jan 26, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Seldom in this life do I meet anything that I feel an immediate connection with. Perhaps its that the suggestion to read this author came from one of my closest friends and one of the few people who "get me" in that profound way that few people do. Perhaps it's the fact that I feel Ligotti is the first true heir to the throne left empty on the Ides of March 1937. The writing of Thomas Ligotti fits perfectly into my skewed view of this futile existence. The stories collected in this book strike m ...more
Nicole Cushing
Nov 25, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
For me, the standouts in this collection were "The Last Feast of Harlequin" and "The Night School" -- but I didn't find myself disappointed by any of the tales. My understanding is that this is a reprint of a long out-of-print book. Ligotti wrote these stories many years ago. And yet, the horror field has yet to catch up with him. Brilliant stuff. Highly recommended. ...more
Apr 27, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This is a superb collection of short stories - very spooky and creepy. Its not gory, just very atmospheric and lingers - particularly the story about 'The Scream'. Reviewrs often talk about his wok being like Poe and Lovecraft, and they would be right, just with a more modern setting. His language is excellent and complex and its a superb book to get your teeth into ;) ...more
D.M. Dutcher
These have to be the least scary horror stories I have ever read. Way too much repetition and writing that reduces the impact of the horror than prolongs it.

Most of the stories have the same formula. A first person protagonist who always sounds exactly the same, encounters either a person or an object who threatens damnation. Literally, they sound exactly the same even if they are a child-both the Library of Byzantium and Miss Plarr concern child protagonists in first person style who sound like
Aug 22, 2007 rated it it was amazing
This guy just came onto the weird fiction scene and beat everyone's asses. Completely eerie, the kind of book that makes me lament the loss of the word "queer," because that's the best word for it. In the old sense of the word. In the new sense of the word it's perfect for Anne Rice. ...more
Sep 13, 2019 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: weird-tales, horror
Not quite as good as Songs of a Dead Dreamer, but the highlights are some instant favorite horror stories.

The Last Feast of Harlequin
The Glamour
Miss Plarr
The Shadow at the Bottom of the World
Paul Roberts
Feb 25, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

"The Last Feast of Harlequin"
"The Spectacles in the Drawer"
"The Dreaming in Nortown"
"The Shadow at the Bottom of the World"
The Brain in the Jar
Note that I read this collection immediately after Songs of a Dead Dreamer since they were bundled together. It’s possible that many of the negatives come from reading 440 big pages of Ligotti prose. Then again, I survived a longer book with prose more purple and the result was a novel so fantastic, I think it’s required reading for anyone who wants to understand existence and other big ideas.

Ligotti has an odd problem with prose. Generally authors who rely on prose to deliver good fiction do it
Evan Pincus
Jun 24, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
“All around me invisible games had begun.”

A thornier collection than it’s predecessor, more baroque and literary than arch and academic. It may lack the highs of Songs of a Dead Dreamer, but it makes up for it with a far tighter conceptual focus, all obscure therapies and esoteric teachings, dying kingdoms and dingy shops in dismal cities, worlds and visions beyond the veil. So, business as usual for the author, but presented in a far more novelistic-feeling way than it was in Dead Dreamer.
молодо́й челове́к
Feels like a grower that needs a re-read and some time to fully appreciate it.
Chris Browning
Aug 01, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Considerably better than Dead Dreamer, but... Ligotti swaps derivative storytelling for a wholly new approach which slightly flattens some of the stories into a kind of doomy sameyness. What’s this? Another unnamed town and narrator? Another master and apprentice? Another description of foetid otherness from a world not ours? It’s a lot of nihilism to take in one go and he doesn’t vary how he presents it - to the extent that I hadn’t even noticed Miss Plarr and The Library of Byzantium are impli ...more
This review is also available on the blog Codices, where I'm a contributor.

“Grimscribe: His Lives and Works” is the second collection of horror short stories by the American writer Thomas Ligotti. I was stoked to read something from Ligotti, because I’ve been hearing about him a lot lately – mainly because of the success of the first season of HBO’s “True Detective” (which is probably my favourite TV series ever). There, the character of Rust Cohle’s (Matthew McConaughey) personality is influenc
270716: things this collection leads me to ponder: hp lovecraft (literate, cosmic, tortured) and would i like him if he was also modern? ramsey campbell's 'hungry moon' (well they are of the same vintage and both follow lovecraft)... stephen king (not very influential either way) and whether ligotti can write longer work, more immersive... cormac mc carthy's 'blood meridian' (not an influence) and why is the horror there so much more effective to me?... john dos passos (is there a horror writer ...more
C. Varn
Nov 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
These twelve short stories illustrate the thematic debt Ligotti owes H.P. Lovecraft, but how dramatically different his style and literary technique can be from Lovecraft as well. Ligotti lacks Lovecraft's victorian flare, and is far too anti-human to have Lovecraft's chauvinism. The term "apocalyptic" applies to Liggoti's work, but not in its cataclysmic elements, but its devastating unveiling. The diary-like use of first-person narrative and the philosophical weight can make this an acquired t ...more
Greg Kerestan
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
This is the beginner's guide to Ligotti- he's at his most accessible here but still retains his signature style and preoccupations. Describing Ligotti is usually easiest in terms of other artists: the insane offspring of Poe and Lovecraft; "Welcome to Night Vale" with all the humor, humanity and goodness surgically removed. This is dark, lush, woozy stuff, and to delve too deep may lead you to start considering Ligotti's anti-natalist, brutally nihilist philosophies to be sane and rational respo ...more
There are some very cool horror stories here-- beautifully written, and creepy in that way that H.P. Lovecraft was to me when I first read him. My body starts to go numb and I become feverish and distraught as, on a very fundamental level, I have been exposed to annihilation.

Amir   Benhaida
Aug 26, 2016 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
I couldn't do it, I tried, I really struggled to finish it but it's just not going to happen.
the stories are uninteresting and generic, if you have already read Ligotti's works you really should stay away from Grimscribe, it's a boring book.
Nick Wallace
Mar 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
One of the least known and most underappreciated authors in recent history.
Che' Gilson
Sep 22, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Ok, I'm re-reading this in preperation for a YA horror novel I am plotting. The early works of Thomas Ligotti are the direct inheritance of H.P. Lovecraft. His more recent hort fiction... meh. ...more
Jun 27, 2011 rated it really liked it
While these short stories are clearly Lovecraftian in delivery (1st person narrator, high vocab), Ligotti's stories stand on their own. I'd re-read most on a stormy autumn. ...more
Nov 28, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Fantastic short stories. Like Lovecraft, but more modern, less dry.
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Thomas Ligotti is a contemporary American horror author and reclusive literary cult figure. His writings, while unique in style, have been noted as major continuations of several literary genres—most prominently Lovecraftian horror—and have overall been described as works of "philosophical horror", often written as philosophical novels with a "darker" undertone which is similar to gothic fiction. ...more

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“You see how I live: shadows and silence, leaving things as I find them because I have no reason to disturb them. But there are things that I have known, even though I never wished to know them and cannot give them a name.” 11 likes
“The worst fear of the race yes, the world suddenly transformed into a senseless nightmare, horrible dissolution of things. Nothing compares, even oblivion is a sweet dream. You understand why, of course. Why this peculiar threat. These brooding psyches, all the busy minds everywhere. I hear them buzzing like flies in the blackness. I see them as glow worms flitting in the blackness. They are struggling, straining every second to keep the sky above them, to keep the sun in the sky, to keep the dead in the earth-to keep all things, so to speak, where they belong. What an undertaking! What a crushing task! Is it any wonder that they are all tempted by a universal vice, that in some dark street of the mind a single voice whispers to one and all, softly hissing, and says: 'Lay down your burden.' Then thoughts begin to drift, a mystical magnetism pulls them this way and that, faces start to change, shadows speak... sooner or later the sky comes down, melting like wax. But as you know, everything has not yet been lost: absolute terror has proved its security against this fate. Is it any wonder that these beings carry on the struggle at whatever cost?” 3 likes
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