Tuesday, February 13, 2007

(My favorite horror writer.)

Thomas Ligotti (b. July 9, 1953, Detroit, Michigan) is a writer of horror stories.

Something of a cult figure, Ligotti is rather little known, but has seen high praise as one of the most effective and unique horror writers of recent decades: The The Washington Post called him "the best kept secret in contemporary horror fiction"[1]; another critic declared "It's a skilled writer indeed who can suggest a horror so shocking that one is grateful it was kept offstage."


Ligotti attended Macomb County Community College between 1971 and 1973 and graduated from Wayne State University in 1977.

Ligotti began his publishing career in the early 1980s with a number of short stories published in various American small press magazines.

His unique and affecting tales gathered a small following. Ligotti's relative anonymity and reclusiveness led to speculation about his identity: Was Ligotti a pseudonym used by a prominent literary writer? Were his stories in fact collaborations of multiple authors? In an introduction to a 1996 collection of Ligotti fiction, The Nightmare Factory, Poppy Z. Brite mentioned these notions, with a rhetorical question: "Are you out there, Thomas Ligotti?"

In recent years, Ligotti has conducted interviews and disclosed some details of his background. For twenty-three years Ligotti worked as an Associate Editor at Gale Research (now the Gale Group), a publishing company that produces compilations of literary (and other) research. In the summer of 2001, Ligotti quit his job at the Gale Group and moved to south Florida. His favorite music is generally instrumental rock. Nevertheless there are still some who question Ligotti's actual existence and--in a fittingly Ligottian notion--claim these biographical details are part of an extended literary conspiracy. If so, however, it is a conspiracy that does not hesitate to hold e-conversations in Ligotti's name.

Ligotti's worldview has been described as profoundly nihilistic (though he's wary of the label, stating "'Nihilist' is a name that other people call you. No intelligent person has ever described or thought of himself as a nihilist", and has stated he has suffered from anxiety for much of his life; these have been prominent themes in his work.

Ligotti generally avoids the explicit violence common in some recent horror fiction, preferring to establish an intensely disquieting, pessimistic atmosphere through the use of subtlety and repetition. He has cited Vladimir Nabokov, Thomas Bernhard, Edgar Allan Poe, Bruno Schulz, E. M. Cioran and William S. Burroughs among his favorite writers. There are similarities between some of Ligotti's work and the subtly disturbing stories of Robert Aickman, as well. H.P. Lovecraft is also an important touchstone for Ligotti: a few stories, The Sect of the Idiot, in particular, makes explicit reference to Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, and one, The Last Feast of Harlequin, was dedicated to Lovecraft.

Ligotti has explored metafictional notions in several stories: "Notes on the Writing of Horror" and "Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror" both begin as advice for prospective writers of horror fiction, but gradually become uniquely Ligottian exercises in quietly disturbing fiction.

Ligotti has stated he prefers short stories to longer forms, both as a reader and writer, though he has recently written a novella, My Work Is Not Yet Done.

Ligotti has collaborated with the musical group Current 93 on the albums In A Foreign Town, In A Foreign Land (1997, reissued 2002), I Have A Special Plan For This World (2000) and This Degenerate Little Town (2001) all released on David Tibet's Durtro label. Tibet has also published several limited editions of Ligotti's books on Durtro Press. Ligotti also played guitar on Current 93's contribution to the compilation Foxtrot, an album whose proceeds went to the treatment of musician John Balance's alcoholism.

Critical analyses of Ligotti's work can be found in S. T. Joshi's book The Modern Weird Tale (2001), as well as in a critical anthology assembled by Darrell Schweitzer, a fan of Ligotti.


Critical opinion of Ligotti has generally been favorable. The New York Times Book Review wrote "If there were a literary genre called 'philosophical horror,' Thomas Ligotti's Grimscribe would easily fit within it" and praised his "provocative images and a style that is both entertaining and lyrical".

He has often been favorably compared to Edgar Allan Poe, Jorge Luis Borges, Franz Kafka and H.P. Lovecraft.

Thomas Ligotti Online
"It's all a matter of personal pathology": An Interview
Literature Is Entertainment or It Is Nothing: An Interview
Another interview about My Work Is Not Yet Done


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