As I was rereading Thomas Ligotti’s first published tale “Allan And Adelaide: An Arabesque” a homage to his early love of Poe I was reminded once again of Camille Paglia’s observation: “There is no sex instinct per se in Poe. His eroticism is in the paroxysms of suffering, the ecstatic, self-inflaming surrender to tyrant mothers.”1 If this can be said of Poe (and I think it can!), then anyone who has read Ligotti’s tales will admit that the same understated aesthetic pervades his works as well. Who will forget that last message of Adelaide – sister-mother of brother, Allan:
“All alone, I know. And betrayed. Lost and lonely Allan. You were always alone, my brother, and so was I. It could never have been otherwise. I know how my lies have hurt you, and what they drove you to do. But none of that matters now, none of that ever mattered, for if we could not truly share our lives then at least we always shared a soul, did we not? That is the only thing, despite all the masks and mirrors and whatever it was we thought we were. So many things we could not share until now. Now I can share with you the most precious thing of all… I will share my death. Come to me and share my death. Yes, closer. Do not think about the blood, it is both of ours. Now even closer. See how your blood flows with mine.”
Poe’s great tyrant mothers, vampires one and all, haunting this passage… Ligotti would go beyond Poe, and yet would keep that eroticism without sex throughout his tales. One remembers the interview in which he is asked:
VS: Are you dating anyone? Any interest there in the foreseeable future? If not, then do you value all the time which is not wasted on sex and relationships (something which probably takes up 70% of most people’s mental energy)? …
TL: I’ve been checking out computer matchmaking sites for years but I can’t find anyone whose idea of a good time is dinner and a suicide pact.
Morbid humor? Evasion? A sort of ironic or sardonic tip of the hat to a devilish imp of the perverse – a la Poe? When asked about his love of Decadent literature he said: “During my Decadent phase from the mid-seventies to the early eighties, I preferred the world-weary stuff to the love-and-corpse stuff, although most decadents wrote both, as is well exemplified by Georges Rodenbach’s Bruges-la-morte.” It’s this tendency toward the morbidity and weariness of things, the almost Gnostic world-rejection without its redemptive soteriological goals that pervades Ligotti’s aesthetics of pessimism.
1. Paglia, Camille. Sexual Personae (p. 573). Yale University Press. Kindle Edition.