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Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe

4.01  ·  Rating details ·  3,107 ratings  ·  359 reviews
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,
Paperback, Penguin Classics, 448 pages
Published May 5th 2016 by Penguin Books (first published October 6th 2015)
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Average rating 4.01  · 
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 ·  3,107 ratings  ·  359 reviews

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Oct 06, 2018 rated it really liked it
I have a penchant for doing things in reverse order, especially when it comes to books. At least in my own mind. Like a literary Benjamin Button, when I wasn’t reading comics as a kid, I was usually reading “grown up” books (The Hardy Boys adventures being the big exception). And I didn’t read Moby Dick until I was 45, though I had many, many opportunities (and even assignments) to read it many, many years before that.

So, of course, I read and loved Thomas Ligotti’s Teatro Grottesco before havin
Jack Poling
Oct 28, 2015 rated it did not like it
Where to begin? Have you ever read a book so awful that you hated it? A book that despite being only 300 some odd pages took you weeks to read? A book that, after a while, made you hate not only this book, but the act of reading itself? After 300 pages of this garbage I think I not only hate reading, but have been rendered illiterate. Thanks Thomas Ligotti! Now I can't read! I'm only able to type this by using rage telepathy. Now I'm going to saw off my own head with the plastic cutlery from my ...more
Dec 10, 2016 rated it it was ok
I just did something weird. I stopped reading this book. Not after a few pages. No. I decided to stop on page 360. There are less than 100 pages left, but I cannot go on. Why?

I can no longer endure the sprawling, excessive sentences that foam rabid, infected by diseases as of yet unnamed by men of science, as purple as the phallus of an ancient Egyptian god who has sexually ravaged a basket of blueberries. Dear god. Please. Just tell a story. Stop describing the light as it hits the rooftops of
E. G.
Sep 27, 2016 rated it liked it
Foreword, by Jeff Vandermeer

Songs of a Dead Dreamer

Dreams for Sleepwalkers
--The Frolic
--Les Fleurs
--Alice's Last Adventure
--Dream of a Manikin

The Nyctalops Trilogy:
--I. The Chymist
--II. Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes
--III. Eye of the Lynx

--Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story

Dreams for Insomniacs
--The Christmas Eves of Aunt Elise
--The Lost Art of Twilight
--The Troubles of Dr. Thoss
--Masquerade of a Dead Sword: A Tragedie
--Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech
--Professor Nobody's Little Lectures
May 05, 2019 rated it liked it
Some things remain inscrutable. I will never understand the elements of my reading interests. Why do certain matters excite and others repel? I have no great affinity for Cosmic Horror. I’m not terribly interested in madness or cults, nor the occult for that matter. There were a handful of brilliant stories here, some evoking Kafka or an uneasy totem of the Weird. Too many appear to be variations on a theme. Too much Ligotti left me suffocated, but never afraid.
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories, horror
I don't really like it when they bundle together multiple books/collections that were originally published separately and I usually try to break them up, treat the parts as if they are still separate books. I didn't do that with this book; so excited was I to finally get a chance to read Ligotti's first two collections. So rich and intense was the writing that I really think I ought to have done as it took me quite a while to finish.

I seem to have worked my way backwards through his work, starti
Tristram Shandy
Aug 18, 2017 rated it it was ok
Shelves: abandoned
I started this book which bundles Ligotti’s first two story collections with high hopes but I soon found myself unwilling to read through it, thus adding it to my pile of abandoned books. We already sort of got off on the wrong foot with the first story because exploiting the suffering of children just with a view of providing sheer thrill never goes down too well with me. When I read on, I was taken aback by the overall style of the stories – a verbose, baroqueish rambling that is sometimes eve ...more
Daniel Polansky
As a rule, I really don't like to write negative reviews. There are two reasons for this; the first is as a matter of aesthetic principal. As a youth I can remember thinking that the understanding/appreciation of an art form – what might broadly be described as 'having taste' – consisted largely of sharpening one's sense of contempt for the vast body of work in that particular form, and of being able to convey that distaste in a vicious and entertaining manner (we might call this the Pitchfork m ...more
David Peak
Sep 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
Re-reads for both of these great books.

Full review here at Electric Literature:
Ksenia Anske
Oct 12, 2015 rated it really liked it
That kind of a book. The kind that makes you flip your head around to make sure no one is watching you. Luscious and rich, extravagant and perverse, labyrinthine and macabre and Poesque, a collection of intricate scares and one very important story on the writing of horror that will rattle your wits and teach you a thing or two about, you got it, writing horror. "Horror is not really horror unless it's your horror—that which you have known personally." ...more
Leo Robertson
May 25, 2016 rated it it was amazing
What I read of this I loved before I left it on the plane once I arrived in Trondheim.

Word to the unwise: don't trust that just because you're looking at it in that crappy net thing the whole flight that you'll remember it! You're a total div and you won't. You're just as derpy as every derpalot passenger you silently scorned for derping all over the place. DERP!!
May 05, 2019 added it
Recommends it for: drowning in the pools of night
Recommended to S̶e̶a̶n̶ by: the nocturnal product
And so on a sodden grey Sunday I finish this collection that I took several weeks to read. It still felt like too much Ligotti in too short of a time. The stifling oppression of much of his carefully controlled prose wears me down after only a story or two. In general, I preferred the stories in Teatro Grottesco to those in these first two early works. One of my main issues is with the endings...there were many stories that crackled with potential throughout only to fizzle out at the end. Of tho ...more
Mar 26, 2015 rated it liked it
Shelves: to-be-continued
June 2016 Update: I'm giving this book another shot, and boy howdy, am I glad I chose to do this.

Original review: I need to give this book another, more educated, chance at some point. Being early works from Ligotti, there are many glimpses of his brilliantly obsidian views, but often weighed down by prose so thick that it can be hard to follow his direction. Even so, the mood outweighs the words, and with stories such as "The Frolic" and the excellently distressing "Les Fleurs," I am left haunt
Christina E
Mar 05, 2017 rated it liked it
Shelves: horror
I don't know how I feel about Ligotti.

I got the very charming Penguin Classics edition of his first two story collections, Songs of a Dead Dreamer and Grimscribe and to be frank I had quite a hard time finishing it.
His horrors are cognitive, esoteric, barely tangible. More than cosmic, I think Ligotti is a master of psychological and existential horror. Nobody explores the theme of dark dreaming more deliberately than him. His urban anomalies, distorted realities and bizzare dreamscapes are the
Jan 26, 2016 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
To the best of my knowledge, and despite his regrettable decade of silence, Thomas Ligotti is the greatest living writer of horror.

Jeff VanderMeer (Who I have always felt to be overrated) makes one cogent point in his otherwise clumsy introduction--”Ligotti early on subsumed Lovecraft and left his dry husk behind, having taken what sustenance he needed for his own devices (Most other writers are, by contrast, consumed by Lovecraft when they attempt to devour him.)” The H.P. Lovecraft style (or
Oct 09, 2015 rated it it was amazing
The more that I read the works of Ligotti, the more that I am convinced that the man is a genius. An author of a unique, singular vision; one of a kind, if you will. In this book we have the author's first two collections, generously resurrected back into print by Penguin in one volume. Here we see the master working in a mode closer in nature to Poe and Lovecraft, but to compare Ligotti to any other author simply leaves his individuality far too understated.

For Ligotti's unique brand of cosmic
Nov 12, 2020 rated it did not like it
Shelves: 2020, garbage-shelf
This really wasn't for me. Too much atmosphere and not enough decent storytelling. The majority of the stories have the same premise and come across as, for lack of a better word, wanky. I much prefer the Stephen King type of horror rather than this pretentious shit. ...more
Mar 22, 2016 rated it really liked it
Can you call this Gnostic horror? Horror that doesn't use violence, or monsters, but that proposes that reality is in essence a fraud, it's just a thin thread of the everyday, below which shadows lurk.

A recollection of two earlier published books of stories by Ligotti, both are somewhere in the middle between H. P. Lovecraft and Bruno Schulz, less definite than the first, darker than the latter.

Many of the stories have a Lovecraft-like structure: a "final" letter or diary is found from someone
I'd read Conspiracy Against the Human Race first, but this was my first introduction to Ligotti's actual fiction -- some 10 years after a friend (wearing a hoodie and no shirt on a chilly spring day in Iowa City, smoking a hand-rolled cigarette, of course) hipped me to his work. Some of it is merely OK , but all of it is at least OK, and some of these stories are absolute mindbenders -- The Last Feast of Harlequin especially, go out and read that immediately. Given that this volume collects Ligo ...more
Oct 02, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: horror
Really a 4.5. I should reevaluate my rating of Teatro Grottesco.
Oct 08, 2015 rated it it was amazing
This book collects the first two Thomas Ligotti short story collections into one handy volume. As an introduction to his work, it's certainly not a bad way to go (though I still think the best introduction is Cold Print Press' "The Shadow at the Bottom of the World," a sort of "best of" collection that was released in 2005 and which sadly has been out-of-print for years now... though maybe I'm just biased to that one as it was my own introduction to Ligotti's work). In any event, it's nice to se ...more
Oct 21, 2015 rated it did not like it
Thomas Ligotti is a somewhat legendary writer in the field of horror fiction. This new volume combines two small press, long out of print collections. Ligotti is an elegant, thoughtful author of rather detached tales, of which I struggled through the first 5 before giving in to sheer boredom. I regret to report (after looking forward to reading Ligotti for years) that I find his work both oblique and opaque; reading this work was somewhat like being in line at the local DMV standing next to some ...more
Jun 05, 2019 rated it really liked it
3.5 stars, rounded up to 4.

I didn't get to read all the stories in this collection so had to skip a few, what I read though was very good.

If you like your horror in-your-face and blood soaked, this is not the author for you, however, if you want a creeping sense of dread, lots of unanswered questions and dream-like unsettling imagery, go for it. The Lovecraft influence is unmistakable, as is Ligotti's own influence over current authors (Jeff VanderMeer and Cassandra Khaw come to mind).

I felt at
Oct 05, 2015 rated it it was amazing
A full review to come later: we should be happy that Ligotti has a Penguin classic collection and one that is really good. If you are a fan or new to Ligotti and cannot track down or afford "The Nightmare Factory", for a reasonable price you can pick this up and enter the bleak, pessimistic world Mr. Ligotti has created. This collection contains his first two story collections and in each you will find many morbid delights.
Congratulations to Thomas Ligotti for finally, after all these decades,
Phillip Smith
Oct 24, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: favorites
Ligotti just plain unsettles me in a way few authors do. He's not an easy read, requiring you to pay attention and ride the waves of dense prose that he throws at you. But if you hang in there, I truly think you will richly rewarded.

10/28/2020 Reread it and it's still 5 stars if not better. You have to take the time to savor Ligotti's language, his rhythm. Definitely can't rush into it, but hot damn is it awesome. I think Grimscribe is more consistent, however. Now onto Teatro Grottesco.
☘Misericordia☘ ⚡ϟ⚡⛈⚡☁ ❇️❤❣
Nope. DNF.
Hate the cover. Passionately. So ugly. I wouldn't want it to appear in my yearly reading anyway.
An impressive but not especially urgent or necessary collection of tales.

Ligotti is never less than polished, and his early stories are often quite accomplished, marrying the frisson of a good old fashioned horror or ghost story with a sophisticated, modern voice that melds American themes with European tropes. But the later (mostly Grimscribe) stories bog down in faux academic minutiae and an excessively cool authorial voice that drains every last bit of interest or emotion out of the narrativ
M. Duda
Oct 13, 2015 rated it it was amazing
Ligotti's work might be how a modern Lovecraft and Poe would write. This book is not for the timid: expect complex prose, dense story ideas, and dark, supernatural worlds lurking within the mind and other dimensions. Ligotti takes advantage of a written story's strengths, progressing the reader further into the conflicts of a character's thoughts. ...more
Ian Casey
Oct 06, 2015 rated it really liked it
This collection is a godsend, or whatever version of a godsend is appropriate to an author as nihilistic as Thomas Ligotti. I’d wanted to experience this latter-day titan of weird fiction from the beginning, but until this Penguin Classic re-issue of his first two short story collections that was impractical, as his early material is so far out of print it’s often listed for three digits (AUD) on ebay. Too bad Noctuary is still in that boat.

I wasn’t sure what to expect but I was hoping for maste
Amir   Benhaida
Mar 21, 2016 rated it it was amazing
"Forsake the world and cling to the shadows."

Songs of a Dead Dreamer is the weirdest thing I've read since ever, I mean it's the good kind of weird. At first glance, it's a messy freak show; each story is ominous and dark. But if you manage to persevere and keep pushing forward until you reach its core, you'll find yourself a vigorous participant in a philosophical debate about the degradation of the state of mind, a debate about the human being in his most weak conditions; psychologically and p
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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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“While horror may make us squirm or quake, it will not make us cry at the pity of things. The vampire may symbolize our horror of both life and death, but none of us has ever been uprooted by a symbol. The zombie may conceptualize our sickness of the flesh and its appetites, but no one has ever been sickened to death by a concept.” 8 likes
“Now I am a vagabond of the universe, a drifter among spaces where the madness of things has no limits.” 7 likes
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