The Impossible Task

In one of his interviews Thomas Ligotti speaks of non-horror writer’s that influenced him to the point of reading everything by the author, as well as every secondary work related to them (i.e., biographical, critical, reviews, etc.).

Ligotti: “To name only non-horror authors: Raymond Chandler, Philip Larkin, Vladimir Nabokov, Bruno Schulz, Dino Buzzati, Hagiwara Sakutaro, Thomas Bernhard, William Burroughs, Jorge Luis Borges, E. M. Cioran, Sadeq Hedeyat, S. I. Witkiewicz, Roland Topor. These are some of the authors whose complete works, and most secondary works on them, I’ve bought and read.”

Being the thorough researcher I am (almost to a point of insanity!), I’ve been working through this list realizing that it’s an impossible task… or, at least at my age (68) it would now take too long to complete such a task (hundreds of works and resources!). Admitting defeat and failure in this area is no cause for concern to me anymore, realizing that my work-in-progress of Appreciation (in the Pater/Wilde sense of that term!) is but an opening gambit in what I hope to accomplish: and that is just to further people’s understanding and interest in Ligotti and other horror works. If I accomplish that, along with reaching a wider audience of both avid fans and newcomers my task will be accomplished. It will await actual academic scholars or other mainstream critics to complete the task and fill in the full aesthetic and philosophical implications of Ligotti’s oeuvre.

To the Greta Thunberg’s of our World…

We are facing an existential crisis… it will have a massive impact on our lives in the future, but also now, especially in vulnerable communities. And I think that we should wake up, and we should also try to wake the adults up, because they are the ones who — their generation is the ones who are mostly responsible for this crisis, and we need to hold them accountable.

—Greta Thunberg (11 September 2019)

To the Greta Thunberg’s of our World…

Recently I reread Andrey Platonov’s great work The Foundation Pit, and was reminded of his allegory of Russia; its past, and its future. At the end of it when his young protagonist dies, it’s as if the future of all things died with her. In his slight afterward he would say:

“Will our soviet socialist republic perish like Nastya or will she grow up into a whole human being, into a new historical society? This alarming feeling is what constituted the theme of the work, when the author was writing it. The author may have been mistaken to portray in the form of the little girl’s death the end of the socialist generation, but this mistake occurred only as a result of excessive alarm on behalf of something beloved, whose loss is tantamount to the destruction not only of all the past but also of the future.”

I would only add: Will the earth of our extinction event die with the Greta’s of the world? Or shall we confront this event?

In our own age it’s not only a nation, but the earth herself – and, by that, I mean the earth of our bioenvelope within which we and our non-human neighbors and fellow beings all inhabit; that fragile layer of atmosphere in which all life on planet earth – and, possibly, the only life in our galactic cluster, exists. Then I think of young women and men; of children being born even as I write these words, and wonder if like Platonov it is a mistake to portray a young woman, who for all we know is more than correct in her estimation of our dire situation; her mission to commit herself to the great task of forging a link to others of her generation toward a unity of action: – an impossible dream of changing people’s minds, of changing the world’s leaders minds, of changing the structure of harm and ruin that this late economic system of capitalism and modern instrumentalism has wrought upon the planet’s ecosystems; both technology and its ramifications in industry, and the plunder of the last sustainable resources on our planet, that  have cost, and or costing us. Not only that, but we must ask: Is she right in that her generational world, our world of human and non-humans – this earth, might be part of the last generation of living things on planet earth?

Do you know? Are you willing to bet on it not being so? Or do you scoff and laugh and suggest in your comic denialism that cockroaches will still remain to inherit the earth? Or you such a blind bigot of apathy and derision to let all life tilt toward that annihilation and extinction for a mere comic book scenario of cynicism?  Or are you willing to join her and commit to changing your behavior, and the behavior of both national and international regimes, toward decelerating this vast technological behemoth of planetary destruction before it is too late? Or, will you continue in your malaise; scoff such apocalyptic imaginaries, and sit back and do nothing; pretend that nothing is wrong with the world, that the world is not moving toward biotic self-destruction? Are you willing to let your children inherit such cynical and apathetic thoughts of their future? Or will you begin thinking again… allowing yourself to truly gaze upon the existential truth of this vast crisis of life and existence without blinkers, filters, or propaganda; look at the facts of our situation rather than turning away in blind denial? Will you begin to estimate the underlying truths of what is being said by Greta and those of her generation – of their right to a future worth living in? Or will you like so many… deny her of that future; pretend that nothing is wrong, the world will never end; that life will go on? Will you deny the truth staring you in the face?

What will you do?

Even if I presented you with all the facts that the sciences have gathered over the past century would you be one of those to scoff at such facts, deny their truth? What will I do? For me it’s finally time to take a stand, to realize my time is close to the end; and, yet, with what little time (at age 68) I have left I stand with Greta and her generation, those who will inherit the horror of my generations inaction; those who will face the existential terror and horrors to come, because we were too cowardly to face and deal with – sitting back in denial, apathy, and unbelief that what is transpiring – an extinction event beyond anything the earth has seen – is here, now, upon us. It’s time to act, to salvage as best we can what remains; time to act and be a voice, and a body in this time of decision; for it is up to us now, not some future time… but now, to act and do and be a solution rather than a perpetrator. Will you act and do something to change the world for Greta and her generation? Or will you sit back and let them inherit our ruins? Do I hold out much hope that you will? No. But then I don’t believe in hope. I believe in the courage of our hopelessness. Do you?

As a pessimist I don’t expect much anymore… I doubt very many will even read this post, much less comment of add their own thoughts one way or the other. Like Zizek I don’t depend on the Big Other anymore; even the thoughts of others… most people don’t want to commit to anything but their own vein existences. That’s to be expected in this cowardly generation we live in. Most turn a blind eye to almost everything. And when one young person arises in our midst and sticks up for her own and her generations lives and futures. Most sit back in utter silence and do nothing. Sad, but true. Our generations apathy is the cause of this shame. We are leaving the ruins of the future to Greta and her generation. In my own mind I can only offer what little I have and am; these mere fragments of thought and care… what else is there?

Yea, I don’t hold out much hope anymore. Sadly politics has become a self-defeating farce for the rich corporations who support both sides of the spectrum; seeking only a centrist muddle and solution of do nothing as usual. People assume something will be done when nothing will be. Defeatist? Yes. I’m guilty. The working class; the people, want win either way. And, sadly, the young like Greta and her generation will inherit only the dust… and ruins of the vast megamachine as it slowly grinds the earth into bones.

So in the end to I only offer the wisdom of dust? No. Because as in all things it doesn’t matter what I offer, or even think; what matters is what Greta and her own generation do… for in the end it is up to them to force this issue, to awaken themselves from the sickness of modernity and this vast wasteland, to heal the earth and bring a new order out of the chaos of this collapsing world of culture and economics. Only the young can do what we have not. If my hope is no more; the only thing that can be offered is

The Courage of Hopelessness

in the Face of this dark future…

there is nothing else!

Richard Hugo On The Hard Work of Poetry

If you write often, perhaps every day, you will stay in shape and will be better able to receive those good poems, which are finally a matter of luck, and get them down. Lucky accidents seldom happen to writers who don’t work. You will find that you may rewrite and rewrite a poem and it never seems quite right. Then a much better poem may come rather fast and you wonder why you bothered with all that work on the earlier poem. Actually, the hard work you do on one poem is put in on all poems. The hard work on the first poem is responsible for the sudden ease of the second. If you just sit around waiting for the easy ones, nothing will come. Get to work.

—Richard Hugo,  The Triggering Town: Lectures and Essays on Poetry and Writing (p. 17).

Patricia Highsmith and the Ghost of Rachilde

 

“When I desire you a part of me is gone.”
― Anne Carson, Eros the Bittersweet

Rachilde was enticing and inscrutable, passionate and angry. She was unafraid to speak openly with the sincerity of her feelings. She had no shame in marketing herself, but was also known as a tender and caring friend. Intimate in friendship and dedicated to supporting the careers of others, Rachilde was nevertheless always an outsider, forced to explain her thoughts and beliefs in terms of possession, because what was natural to her seemed to be so unnatural to everyone around her, including to herself as she tried to sort out what was her and what was in the reflection.

Unlike Rachilde, though, Highsmith was intimate erotically but not as a friend, nor did she much care about supporting other writers; in fact as her biographer puts it:

Patricia Highsmith was an improbably tough woman (and not just tough, but “Texas tough,” says her legendary American editor Larry Ashmead) with an impossibly sore center. Early and late, the hopes of many friends and lovers foundered on that adamantine shell of hers. What they saw beneath it, if they even got beneath it, was usually more than they could handle. But Pat could handle it, and she handled it with fortitude.1

Reading Highsmith’s biography by Shenkar, along with the contes cruels (cruel tales) in her Little Tales of Misogyny there is a definite family resemblance between her and Rachilde. These tales are both decadent and fascinating, exploring the perversities of humanity with a cruel joy; or, what Lacan once termed – “jouissance”: that mode of pleasure that goes beyond itself into transgressive acts of sensual perversity and cruelty.
Anne Carson in her Eros the Bittersweet would say this:

“Eros is an issue of boundaries. He exists because certain boundaries do. In the interval between reach and grasp, between glance and counterglance, between ‘I love you’ and ‘I love you too,’ the absent presence of desire comes alive. But the boundaries of time and glance and I love you are only aftershocks of the main, inevitable boundary that creates Eros: the boundary of flesh and self between you and me. And it is only, suddenly, at the moment when I would dissolve that boundary, I realize I never can.”

It’s this bittersweet knowledge that one can never shoot the gap between self and other, that one will forever be locked away within the closed circle of one’s own perverse need to escape the self – the narcissistic capsule of isolation which turns love to hate and cruelty. It’s this dark world of the erotic that both the decadent Rachilde and her inheritor, Highsmith explore in infinite variations of repetition. It’s no longer Sartre’s hell of the Other, but rather the hell of one’s own Self-Conscious nullity, unable to merge with the Other of one’s erotic inferno. So that one repeats the gestures of love in endless labyrinthine trysts, writing the life – living the death of erotic longing…


  1. Schenkarm, Joan. The Talented Miss Highsmith. Picador; First edition (January 4, 2011)

 

*(Need to come back to this and fill in the gaps at a future date… had an interruption this morning!)

The Listening Horror

The Listening Horror

We hear so much about the outer world of sonics, what of the inner mutations that open us onto the unknown; the elaboration of soundscapes, portals to the inevitable horrors of existence; temptations to the alien absence: the incongruities of monstrous objects in the music of unseen worlds surrounding us; throbbing gristle vibrating in the dark interstellar corridors between galactic nights, and the voids that empty onto that black silence that is forever sounding us from the Abyss.

— Songs of Silent Voids


– S.C. Hickman ©2019

Rod Reynolds: The Dark Inside

Smoke swirled around the room, and the gritty smell of gunpowder cloyed in my nose and throat.

—Reynolds, Rod. The Dark Inside

Just finished The Dark Inside by a Londoner Rod Reynolds, with a “successful career in advertising, working as a media buyer, who decided to get serious about writing”. Looking for a new crime novel, and originally hailing from Louisiana and Texas I began tracing various venues for something different. I found it in this noirish work set in that in-between city, Texarkana. A city drifting between Texas and Arkansas that seems to sit on the border between hell and paradise. It’s the sort of place you’d love to visit, but not if there is a murderer on the loose.

I’d decided to go in blind on this one, only acknowledging that Rod had received some good reviews. I was pleasantly surprised that he’d set this novel in the late 1940’s post-war era. East Texas is home to the likes of Joe R. Lansdale whose crime fiction has garnered praise for years. Works like The Bottoms, Leather Maiden, Freeze Burn and the like have honed into the edgy world of dark, along with his series of Hap and Leonard. So I was already quickly enchanted to enter this local having lived outside Shreveport, LA as a child on my grandparents old depression era farm.

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Bohumil Hrabal: Comic Grotesque of Simpletons

Comic Fatalists in the post-war years of those buffer countries betwixt Europe and Russia produced writers forced into the fantastic or macabre: parable, allegory, and satire – forms and styles both baroque and symbolist to get around the ideological censors of both the Left and Right.

CaptureEven in the earlier Great War (WWI) one remembers The Good Soldier Schweik of Jaroslav Hasek a comedic satire on war and civilization:

A great epoch calls for great men. There are modest unrecognized heroes, without Napoleon’s glory or his record of achievements. An analysis of their characters would overshadow even the glory of Alexander the Great. To-day, in the streets of Prague, you can come across a man who himself does not realise what his significance is in the history of the great new epoch. Modestly he goes his way, troubling nobody, nor is he himself troubled by journalists applying to him for an interview. If you were to ask him his name, he would answer in a simple and modest tone of voice: “I am Schweik.”

And this quiet, unassuming, shabbily dressed man is actually the good old soldier Schweik; that heroic, dauntless man who was the talk of all citizens in the Kingdom of Bohemia when they were under Austrian rule, and whose glory will not pass away even now that we have a republic.

I am very fond of the good soldier Schweik, and in presenting an account of his adventures during the World War, I am convinced that you will all sympathize with this modest, unrecognised hero. He did not set fire to the temple of the goddess at Ephesus, like that fool of a Herostrate, merely in order to get his name into the newspapers and the school reading books.

And that, in itself, is enough.

—Jaroslav Hasek, The Good Soldier Svejk

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Jason Starr: The Allurements of the Dark City

I’ve been an avid fan of Horace McCoy and James M. Cain forever, the one a working-class nihilist and absurdist of crime fiction whose guide to despair and futility always entertained even as they lead us into the ruins of self-defeat; the other a portrayer of the dark side of sex and torment in a world where love is hell, and the only way of escape is to enter the darkest avenues of this ruinous world of twisted pain till it hurts so bad you begin to feel again…

Jason Starr who combines these two extremes in both his Cain like updates of our late panic worlds of sex and crime, and in his takes on Gotham City and Ant Man has never seemed to draw a mainstream audience. Which I’m sure is fine with him and us; being one of his extremophile admirers I’ve liked visiting his singular climes of derision, satire, and comic fatalism for years.

Author of Tough Luck and Twisted City, and co-author with the Irish noirist Ken Bruen (think: Bust and Pimp!) he offers us a city of night in broad daylight colors; delving into the broken minds of psychopaths and socio-paths alike, bringing us a vision of the underbelly of our personal hells as we live and breath it. Yet, it’s his keen wit and dark humor, the satiric eye and sense of the proverbial mix of bottom-feeders and unknowing normals which provoke in us not so much disgust as fascination and the allurements of lives lived on the edge of panic and mayhem.

Capture

If you’ve not read Jason before then The Follower might be just the ticket as Jason follows a strange sort of twisted stalker and his beautiful prey into the dark city…

Learn more about Jason and his works on his site:

http://jasonstarr.com/

New Interview with Matt Cardin

New interview with Matt Cardin, author of ‘To Rouse Leviathan’ with Laura Kemmerer is out on Sublime Horror.

LC: What would you say are the core underpinning themes and ideas in your work?

MC: The horror of consciousness, and more specifically, self-awareness. Intimations or suspicions of something fundamentally grotesque and nightmarish at the core of existence itself. The inescapable sense of being drawn to find a metanarrative, a pattern, a God’ s-eye view and understanding of one’s experience and the world at large, and then of being horrified at the revelation that this overall pattern and meaning are actually hideous and unbearable. That life isn’t meaningless, it’s meaningful – and the meaning is awful. The fear that God by whatever name, under whatever cultural guise, may be monstrous. The sense not only of horror but of unbearable loss, grief, and despair that accompanies such a sense of things. The related fear or possibility that artistic and intellectual creativity carry profound dangers because they serve as portals to and for that nightmarish primal ontological reality to communicate itself and corrupt or destroy the artist.

I might pause to add that in my actual everyday existence I’m a living embodiment of Flaubert’s famous advice to “be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.”

Interview: https://www.sublimehorror.com/books/matt-cardin-interview-to-rouse-leviathan/

Ed McBain: A Darker Sublime

 

He had been a cop for twelve years now, and he had learned to stomach the sheer, overwhelming, physical impact of death— but he would never get used to the other thing about death, the invasion of privacy that came with death, the reduction of pulsating life to a pile of bloody, fleshy rubbish.

Ed McBain,  Cop Hater (87th Precinct Mysteries)

Even in his first novel Cop Hater – the master of master’s, Ed McBain, would set you up to take the fall; juxtaposition of the American Sublime of inhuman architectural splendor: progress, beauty, growth, and expansion against the dark stain of its inhabitants with their grotesque underworld of filth and decay. A sense of the Disneyfication of things, of the virtual worlds hiding a darker assemblage of gross truth. In the passage below is the perfect irony: garbage (saying one thing and meaning another), of garbage, and then “garbage”; a simple movement from literal to figurative meaning – a perp’s or cop’s view? – a world seen from the hater or the one who is hating? And, of course that’s the whole subtle power of irony – one never knows just which… Continue reading

Fate and Freedom

…freedom can exist only if there is no there is. But who is the one saying this, if there is no philosophy and never will be?

—Frank Ruda,. Abolishing Freedom: A Plea for a Contemporary Use of Fatalism

For the past few months I’ve reserved Wednesdays for Noirish crime fiction. Rereading the classics and here and there some of the newer Grit Lit or Country Noir. Today was taking notes again on one of my favs, David Goodis. Dark Passage is one of those perfect pieces that no matter how you might try will never be reduplicated. Goodis had a sense of pacing, a way of presenting even the most contrived situations as if they were natural; fatal. In a Goodis story fatalism pervades every aspect of the ongoing paranoia that drives the characters. Yet, even as you watch the whole fatal accord play out there’s this sense in Goodis of this longing to overcome the fatality of being tragically isolated and alone in a universe of pain and suffering. It’s not some superficial yearning or hope for something better, but a deep need to find one other creature who understands and accepts you without some moral or religious bullshit hanging around the edges of a relationship. Continue reading

On Suicide

This is the Hour of Lead –
Remembered, if outlived,
As Freezing persons, recollect the
Snow – First – Chill – then Stupor –
then the letting go –

—Emily Dickinson

One can study this notion for a lifetime, and many have, without ever coming to a conclusion other than a personal one. Yet, I’ve often thought of that, too. After two thousand years of Christian civilization in which suicide was both condemned and outlawed, and now for two hundred years where the secular authorities no longer outlaw it but have condemned it to the couch of psychoanalysts everywhere as a mental disorder one realizes that we’re still under the shadow of ancient codes of theological bullshit.

I dream of an age of forgetfulness, an age when once again one can celebrate the going out of existence as much as we celebrate its birth in children arising out of the womb. The ancient Celts used to hold joyous celebrations and wakes in the memory of the departed, recounting their lives and deeds with family, friends, and acquaintances in a joyful send off rather than some dark and foreboding affair of tears.

Even as a pessimist who sees birth and death as equally aspects of something that should not be, I still find the notion of celebration rather than some false sense of Christian or Secular tearfest to be both more beneficial and given over to the act of deliberate freedom and uncreation. Having suicide become just as much a part of the social mix of celebration seems only fitting in a world that for too long has both condemned and outlawed this one act of defiance and freedom against the laws of God and Man.

How many here would rather such a fitting end—celebrating one’s life, while realizing that the body’s suffering and torment should finally be spared and divested; all the while preparing for such a departure not in horror and tears, but in laughter and shared joy? I’ll bet that most people even if they were raised secular would still see this as a bit strange. But why? Why wouldn’t the celebration of freedom as an act of self-divestiture of suffering and pain be condemned rather than celebrated? Why is our culture so blatantly shame based that to look on death and suicide as an act either against some false theological order, or as some kind of disease of the mind in a secular order be any better.

Will we ever create a third order, a new world view in which birth and death are both celebrated as festivals of mutation, transformation, and metamorphosis? Or will be we be condemned to this dark religion or secular shame forever?

The Marionette Machine

We need to know that puppets are puppets. Nevertheless, we may still be alarmed by them. Because if we look at a puppet in a certain way, we may sometimes feel it is looking back, not as a human being looks at us but as a puppet does.

—Thomas Ligotti,  The Conspiracy against the Human Race

What if you woke up one morning and you were strapped into a strange contraption not knowing what it was, who put you here, and for what purpose? Then what if you suddenly begin to do things, simple things at first like lifting your right hand, then left; then closing your left eye, then right; then moving your legs to specific metrical motions as a subtle music appears in a surround mode; and, then you begin speaking in an unknown tongue against your will; everything happening to you against your will, and no matter what you do you cannot stop it? What would you do?

What if a voice suddenly appears in your head, a voice not your own speaking softly telling you it can do anything with you that it likes? Then to prove it, it requests you sing one of Tiny Tim’s old comic songs; and, you do, even though you are doing everything in your power not to, or – so you think.

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No Turning Back Now: Generation Null

A young man Florian: “You really take no account of what happens to us. When I talk to young people of my generation, those within two or three years of my own age, they all say the same thing: we no longer have the dream of starting a family, of having children, or a trade, or ideals, as you yourselves did when you were teenagers. All that is over and done with, because we’re sure that we will be the last generation, or one of the last, before the end.”

—Bernard Stiegler,  The Age of Disruption

There are teenagers coming of age right now who already have that dark presentiment that the future does not exist for them. What the late Mark Fisher decried a decade ago has now through media hype and saturation become the mythic framework of our age: the Age of Catastrophe.

Since we know civilization has lost its reason, become absolutely mad across the planet; an age of the “new barbarians of stupidity,” entering an era in which the “thirst for annihilation” is not just a philosophical provocation; but a very real possibility: Omnicide – an absolute from which “nothing human gets out alive,” (Land) becomes not only a possibility but a strange presentiment of the history of the future – then there is no turning away from the imperative to “study this riddle in all its mystifying complexity—to walk the tightrope across which a lone state of delirium might form a hidden route to world-erasure” (Bahbak).

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How the Dead Live

Robert William Arthur Cook (12 June 1931 – 30 July 1994), better known since the 1980s by his pen name Derek Raymond, wrote a series of novels about a lonely cop on the beat, a sergeant at London Metropolitan Police’s Department of Unexplained Deaths, also known as A14. The quote below is from the third book in that series, a quote that has sunk down in for many years:

As I stood there I suddenly felt afraid – not of what confronted me but in a general way. I thought and felt that the secret of existence was perhaps to get old with beauty, ironically, coming closer and closer to you as you aged; innocence, everything that you had rejected or ignored as a young man, entering you like music all the time until in the end there was no more time. Then much of what had seemed so hard would be over, after too much work in cities, after patrolling too many streets for too long, after studying too many faces with the sly, fixed look of the dead.

Intelligence is at the service of us all and I believe that curiosity and investigation, like a chicken’s beak, are intended to kill the viper that threatens an egg. Powerful curiosity is the source of all detection and is surely its own end, a field cleared and well ploughed – but it is too simple for us only to have justice and logic; what use are either without mercy? The eternal cycle, the beginning, middle and end of a human being, the incomprehensible dance in the magic of our own theatre will continue for ever. But ignorance of our birth and death makes us largely mad; the majority of us clap at our disasters as though they were a play; but it is a work that we cannot possibly understand. Throughout our obscure race in life our entire frame is intended, is inclined to return to the earth on which our parents lay flat to conceive us; from a great distance our planet is an extraordinary sight, more so than most of us can yet understand, and I think that in the meantime we ought to be very careful about how we treat the flesh that we are.


  1. Raymond, Derek, How the Dead Live (Factory 3) (pp. 149-150). Random House Inc Clients. Kindle Edition.

On Whiskey Devil by Christian Galacar…

Capture
Just finished this short story by Christian Galacar, Whisky Devil. All I could think of was I’ve been there, done that. A young boy of twelve growing up in a home with an alcoholic old man. I remember the times I had the shit beat out of me by my step-dad when he was drunk. I remember the hate in my blood for that old man. I remember what he did to my mama. I remember when I got old enough to finally say enough is enough… I think I’m not alone in this world with such a past. They say violence breeds violence; that might be right, but sometimes a person has to do what a person has to do— not because its the right thing, but because its from a dark place within that finally breaks and twists and pulls one down into that gutter where pain and murderous intent seem to breed terrible things; monstrous thoughts beyond reckoning. It’s sad to be broken like that. It’s sad to be torn by such ferocity that one has to meet it on those same terms. Somethin in you dies when that happens. Somethin that will never come back to its original balance, and leaves you in that dark place where hate mixes with fear and disgust. A kind of thing you’d like to wipe out of your memory, but know that’s not ever going to be possible.

This story takes you down into that dark place where things go wrong and nothing can ever remain the same; and, yet, unlike life it doesn’t leave you there, but carries you forward. It’s a story about a boy who becomes a man the hard way; lifted out of that childhood dream of innocence by an act of violence which leaves him in desolations graveyard. It’s about a boy who learns to face down the fears inside his own child’s mind till the tears run clean and true and without remorse. Where the guilt of being who and what he’s becoming marks him in that shattered mirror where the soul burns, and burns blacker than sin…


Whiskey Devil

Visit the author on his blog: https://www.christiangalacar.com/

Thomas Ligotti’s Death Poems: A Commentary #1

Here You Go

Death is frightening,
and dying just as bad.
Say what you will,
we don’t take it well.
Then how can we live,
with all that ahead?
Something must be
fooling us constantly.
Our brains are tricked
so that we don’t believe,
for whatever reason,
we won’t go on and on.
Our thoughts are clouded
so that we can’t conceive
the exact process
that’s waiting for us.
Or perhaps we think that
when the moment comes
someone else will arrive
to take over—we’ll survive.
Where logic is concerned,
we’re all thumbs.
How couldn’t we know
we were born to go?

Ligotti in an interview would say of Nabokov,

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Samuel Beckett, The Assumption

“In the silence of his room he was afraid, afraid of that wild rebellious surge that aspired violently towards realization in sound. He felt its implacable caged resentment, its longing to be released in one splendid drunken scream and fused with the cosmic discord. Its struggle for divinity was as real as his own, and as futile. … Fear breeds fear: he began to have a horror of unexpected pain, of sleep, of anything that might remove the involuntary inhibition. He drugged himself that he might sleep heavily, silently; he scarcely left his room, scarcely spoke, thus denying even that rare transmutation to the rising tossing soundlessness that seemed now to rend his whole being with the violence of its effort. He felt he was losing, playing into the hands of the enemy by the very severity of his restrictions. By damming the stream of whispers he had raised the level of the flood, and he knew the day would come when it could no longer be denied. Still he was silent, in silence listening for the first murmur of the torrent that must destroy him.”

– Samuel. Beckett, The Complete Short Prose of Samuel Beckett, 1929-1989 (p. 5). Grove/Atlantic, Inc.

I Dream of an Eleusis of Disabused Hearts

Where to locate the poetry of lies, the goad of an enigma?

The man who has not given himself up to the pleasures of anguish, who has not savored in his mind the dangers of his own extinction nor relished such cruel and sweet annihilations, will never be cured of the obsession with death: he will be tormented by it, for he will have resisted it; while the man who, habituated to a discipline of horror, and meditating upon his own carrion, has deliberately reduced himself to ashes—that man will look toward death’s past, and he himself will be merely a resurrected being who can no longer live. His “method” will have cured him of both life and death.

Every crucial experience is fatal: the layers of existence lack density; the man who explores them, archaeologist of the heart, of being, finds himself, at the end of his researches, confronting empty depths. He will vainly regret the panoply of appearances.

Hence the ancient Mysteries, so-called revelations of the ultimate secrets, have bequeathed us nothing by way of knowledge. The initiates were doubtless obliged to keep silence; yet it is inconceivable that not a single chatterbox was among their number; what is more contrary to human nature than such stubbornness in secrecy? The fact is that there were no secrets; there were rites, there were shudders. Once the veils had fallen, what could they discover but insignificant consequences? The only initiation is to nothingness—and to the mockery of being alive, . . . And I dream of an Eleusis of disabused hearts, of a lucid Mystery, without gods and without the vehemences of illusion.

—Emile Cioran, A Short History of Decay

Night of the Demons

In the Aztec empire, every fifty-two years, once in an average lifetime, the world was on the verge of coming to an end. The sun would no longer move, night would be eternal, and man-eating demons would descend to rule the earth.

On that day all fires were extinguished, and floors were swept clean. Old clothes, the images of gods kept in the house, the hearthstones on which cooking pots were kept, mats, pestles, and grindstones were cast into lakes and rivers. Pregnant women were given maguey masks and locked in granaries; if the world ended, they would turn into monsters.

That night, everyone dressed in new clothes, climbed onto terraces and rooftops; no one touched the ground. Children were poked and threatened, to keep them awake; those who slept would wake up as mice. In Tenochtitlan, the capital, eyes were fixed on the temple atop the Hill of the Star. There, at midnight, the priests were watching the stars called Tianquitzli, the Marketplace, our Pleiades, to see if they would cross the meridian and ensure another fifty-two years of life.

In the temple, a prisoner without physical blemishes, with a name meaning turquoise, year, fire, grass, or comet— words that denote precious time— was stretched across a flat stone with a piece of wood on his chest. As the Tianquitzli constellation crossed the line, a priest began furiously spinning his fire drill into the wood. A little smoke, a few sparks, and then, as the wood took flame, the prisoner’s chest was slit open with an obsidian knife, his heart pulled out and set in the fire. Four bundles of tied wood, each with thirteen logs, were piled around him so that his whole body was consumed by flames. As the bonfire became visible, the people slashed their ears and the ears of their children, scattering blood toward the flames.

Messengers carried torches from the Hill of the Star to the principal temples, and from there to the palaces, and from the palaces, street by street, house by house, until the whole city was lit again. All night, relay runners carried the new fire throughout the empire. People threw themselves at the fire to be blessed with blisters.

Children born in the night were given the name New Time. In the morning new mats were spread out, new hearthstones placed, incense lit, and honey-dipped amaranth seed cakes eaten by all. Quails were decapitated.

—Eliot Weinberger, An Elemental Thing

The Fantastic Life of Douglas Harding: The Man With No Head

Thomas Ligotti speaks of being influenced by Douglas Harding whose life would impact his notions of No-Self and Void. It was Matt Cardin who introduced Harding’s works to Ligotti. In a tweet to me Matt described that Tom had mentioned Harding in an early draft of his The Conspiracy Against the Human Race: A Contrivance of Horror, but had removed it in the final version. He did incorporate this headless notion in a poem in his the Unholy City:

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Andy Rausch: Bloody Sheets – A Revenge Tale

Sometimes a person is forced into that dark place where either you turn and confront it or it kills you. In such times, and in such places there is no escape, only the hatred that is neither forgiving nor accepting just full of that wounded pain that want go away, ever. Reading Andy Rausch’s tale Bloody Sheets is like that, a place with no easy outs only a one way trip to hell.

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