An Unknown Master Of Horror


“Sometimes there would be an isolated house hanging onto the edge of an open field of shadows and shattered glass.  And the house would be so contorted by ruin that the possibility of its being inhabited sent the imagination swirling into a pit of black mysteries.  Upon closer approach, one might observe thin, tattered bedsheets in place of curtains. Finally, after prolonged contemplation, the miracle of a soft and wavering glow would be revealed inside the house.”

From Thomas Ligotti’s short story, “Purity,” from his collection Teatro Grottesco.

His books, unfortunately, are hard to find even as his stature as one of the current masters of horror continues to grow. I only learned about him the other day from my discerning and well-read housemate, Orion.

I realize now, two stories in Teatro Grottesco which Orion had the decency to lend me even as my pile of unread books continues to grow, that Ligotti’s sense of horror is very near my own: a vision of ruin and decomposition, unseen anxieties, space that is warped by ineffable energies, odd and eccentric people with baffling obsessions. It is a Lovecraftian horror that has merged with the horrors of urban blight and generalized, post-industrial malaise. A horror for our own time. A horror that should be taken seriously, especially by other writers.

I did a little research and discovered that Ligotti, like B. Traven and Thomas Pynchon, is something of a reclusive, society-shunning enigma and that speculation has run rife that perhaps “Thomas Ligotti” is a pseudonym for a more famous author or that even it is a nom de plume for a whole cadre of writers working together. There are many interviews with Ligotti but they seem to be largely unverified and are never performed in person. Some of these interview can be read at Ligotti’s zealous community fan site.

Of course, being a rabid biblioholic myself as well as an undiagnosed obsessive, I fully intend on using my powers as a bookseller to track down and euphorically consume the rest of Ligotti’s works, no matter the personal toll it takes or how many people get trampled in the process.

But such are the joys of discovering a new author.

Michael Berger is a barely-published writer and book-seller living in San Francisco. He is one of the founding Corsairs of the Iron Garters Bike Club and is currently pursuing a degree in applied pataphysics. He sometimes eats oatmeal for dinner. More from this author →