December 16th, 2010

S.C. Hickman

Thomas Ligotti: Speculations in Black; or, the Object-Oriented Sublime

"At first there was no specific mention of Ascrobius, but only a kind of twilight talk — dim and pervasive murmurs that persistently revolved around the graveyard outside of town, often touching upon more general topics of a morbid character, including some abstract discourse, as I interpreted it, on the phenomenon of the grave."
           - Thomas Ligotti, His Shadow Shall Rise to a Higher House

Reading Ligotti is like listening to the disquisitions of a hermetic scientist or the dissonant music of an infernal composer - one who is continually fascinated by the arcane mysteries and traces the linements of a shadowy realm of nonbeing unto the furthest reaches of the darkest Abyss: a realm of the unreal just beyond the nothingness that is and the nothingness that is not, a black world that is not so much separated from our own as it is the very groundless ground and source from which our world arises out of the great Void. His characters always seem to be wandering down the lonely roads and byways of certain ruinous cities and  towns where the negative potency of corruption and decay give birth to the metaphysical potencies of a hellish paradise and the nightmares of a joyful cruelty at the heart of non-being.  Following these philosophical prodigies down the dark nooks and crannies of these strange and disquieting old villages, where the expectant guest who will never arrive but is always already there in all his unfounded wonderment, we begin to see the hideous amplitude of a primoridial world rise out of the bones and ashes of a cosmic catastrophe that overtook reality so long ago that even the darkest mind founders amid its necrotic zones.

One of my favorite stories is His Shadow Shall Rise to a Higher House, which opens with one of those natural yet strangely disquieting paragraphs that set the tone for most of Ligotti's speculative musings:

"In the middle of the night I lay wide awake in bed, listening to the dull black drone of the wind outside my window and the sound of bare branches scraping against the shingles of the roof just above me. Soon my thoughts became fixed upon a town, picturing its various angles and aspects, a remote town near the northern border. Then I remembered that there was a hilltop graveyard that hovered not far beyond the edge of town. I never mentioned to anyone this graveyard which for a time was a source of great anguish for those who had retreated to the barren landscape of the northern border."[1]

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