MALIGNANTLY USELESS: The Art and Philosophy of Thomas Ligotti

Over a period of years the works of Thomas Ligotti have pervaded my thought and life. I’ve decided to spend time writing on the art and philosophy of Ligotti in a new book, one that I will hopefully finish by the end of fall. Not sure when it will be published, but I’ll keep you informed. I may not be as active on the site as I’ve been but will still pop my head up from time to time as I progress.

Here was a man broken by mental and physical pressures beyond his own powers to control or change, and yet was able to produce a small volume of work that has reshaped the traditions of the fantastic, weird, and strange. Unlike his predecessor H.P. Lovecraft whose major influence upon the artistic realms of the Weird Tale were his unique Cthulhu Mythos and the grandeur of his Cosmic Pessimism, Thomas Ligotti’s inner turn toward the darkness of this thing we are: the fatal strategies of being consciously aware of our self-lacerating nothingness, and the tendencies toward self-annihilation in the face of this monstrous truth have led him down quite different registries of being than those of his predecessor. Instead Ligotti sought to strip us of all our illusions, cast doubt upon the very fabric of our deceptions and delusions; our optimistic beliefs in life, our hopes and dreams of the Good. Instead he offers only the consolations of horror, the dark truths of nihil and self-erasure. Ligotti’s world is our world seen without the rosy tented glasses of our optimistic and futurial gaze. For what Ligotti has seen is the complete and utter malignant uselessness of the human species, and its frolic upon a spinning whirl of dust within a black ocean of night we call home. This sense of utter devastation and ruin shadows Ligotti’s art and life, brings us to that pitch of despair, a height from which there is no return only the leap into oblivion.

Ligotti’s world is our world seen from a diseased mind, a world that is at once real and irreal, a realm of the impossible made possible only in our nightmares. He reveals to us the impossibility of escape or salvation, knowing the redemptive mythos is itself the illusion that sustains our will to live – the principle of evil that rules our immortal cravings. We who have entered the labyrinths of the Ligottian universe have ourselves gone mad and wander among the ruins of our world like ghosts from the future, knowing our separateness and our intelligence will not change this world or the next, only the acceptance of what is brings a broken knowledge of the poetics of despair and futility that is Ligotti’s Gift.

Here is the working Outline so far:

 

MALIGNANTLY USELESS:

The Art and Philosophy of Thomas Ligotti

by

S.C. Hickman

After the torchlight red on sweaty faces
After the frosty silence in the gardens
After the agony in stony places
The shouting and the crying
Prison and palace and reverberation
Of thunder of spring over distant mountains
He who was living is now dead
We who were living are now dying…

—T.S. Eliot, The Wasteland

[O]ne thing we know is real: horror. It is so real, in fact, that we cannot be sure it could not exist without us. Yes, it needs our imaginations and our consciousness, but it does not ask or require our consent to use them. Indeed, horror operates with complete autonomy. Generating ontological havoc, it is mephitic foam upon which our lives merely float. And, ultimately, we must face up to it: Horror is more real than we are.

—Thomas Ligotti, The Conspiracy against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror 

Preludium: The Road to the Unreal

“Malignantly Useless”: The Horror of Consciousness

Part One: Into the Wasteland

  1.  Burial of the Dead
  2.  A Frolic in the Infernal Paradise
  3.  Unreal Cities

Interlude: A Life of Nightmares

Part Two: Night Music

  1.  The Aesthetics of Evil
  2.  The Monstrosity of Being & Self
  3.  The Last Refuge of the Dammed

Interlude: The Tears of Despair

Part Three: Black Waters Seeping In

  1.  Broken Vessels
  2.  Graveyard Thoughts
  3.  The Fire Sermon

Postlude: Death by Water

A few of the rough drafts that will be incorporated later into my book (admittedly many of these will need extensive rewrites or incorporation into current essays!):


In the meantime those unfamiliar with Thomas Ligotti a few links:

The Miserablist: Thomas Ligotti’s Puppet Philosophy is my intro to Ligotti.

Jon Padgett’s Thomas Ligotti Online: http://ligotti.net/
Thomas Ligotti’s works: @Amazon
Wiki Entry: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thomas_Ligotti

Matt Cardin podcast on Ligotti: “Matt Cardin on Horror and Spirituality, Thomas Ligotti, and Alan Watts” – An interview for the This Is Horror podcast

Interviews:

 

7 thoughts on “MALIGNANTLY USELESS: The Art and Philosophy of Thomas Ligotti

    • Thanks, Matt! I just finished reading your two essays on Ligotti and realize just how much your perspective on Lovecraft and Ligotti are aligned to the path I’m taking. Appreciate your time for having come by and commented. Thanks, again!

      Like

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