The Birdcage Archives

Wednesday 25 August 2010

Teatro Grottesco by Thomas Ligotti

Hello Gentle Reader

I have finished reading my first, short collection of short stories, by the master of horror that is not horror but is considered horror, in an entirely new different form. Thomas Ligotti, the master of nightmares, the absurdity and poppycock, of life and existence, shows the very fear of the human condition.

One thing that I can surely say about Thomas Ligotti, is that he does not sit around and waste his time, with describing, bodily disfiguration or mutilation. Thomas Ligotti, does not waste his time, with describing anything in to a gory detail, that we can pretty much see every single blood cell in a pool of blood. In fact, the way that Thomas Ligotti, presents some of the situations is almost normal, and is not shocking at all, not even unsettling, just makes you read along. To say the least, Thomas Ligotti is not going to waste his time, with simple Hollywood shock tactics. Thomas Ligotti doesn't even waste his time, by making the plot move along via any chasing after any thing or anyone. In fact Thomas Ligotti, just lets his work flow from the characters point of view. The rants, the idea's, and the arguments that are presented with Thomas Ligotti's work, is just his own. Some say that he reminds them of Edgar Allan Poe, and H.P. Lovecraft.

I can see where some people, see the Poe influence and the Lovecraft influence as well. However I also some influence from Franz Kafka and if i may say what i say, i also see some influence from Thomas Bernhard. The way Thomas Ligotti is rather disturbing. Its hard to relate to the characters sometimes -- and sometimes its appears impossible, which is fine by me.

If a person is looking for a coherent all tied up and neatly decorated ending with Thomas Ligotti's work, I would suggest look elsewhere. For nothing is ever truly answered, and even there was an answer there would be more questions after that answer. Rather than Thomas Ligotti, wasting his time, answering every detailed question regarding, the questions that are not answered in his work, he allows the reader to come up with their own possibilities. Much as literature, should.

Thomas Ligotti does have amazing descriptive power, though. In the short story titled "The Clown Puppet," he describes the face of the clown puppet with fluid, and harshness of the narrators, voice.

from "The Clown Puppet," taken from "Teatro Grottesco," by Thomas Ligotti:

“Its expressiveness was all in that face with its pale and pitted complexion, its slightly pointed nose and delicate lips, and its dead puppet eyes — eyes that did not seem able to fix or focus themselves upon anything but only gazed with an unchanging expression of dreamy malignance, an utterly nonsensical expression of stupid viciousness and cruelty.”

Its not meant to be unsettling as it is to describe the almost horrifying aspect of the clown. How its eyes, show no life, yet has all the workings of a regular human face.

Thomas Ligotti, surely does describe the nonsensical life, and existence of mankind. When one person may happily filling paper, or doing a job, that they find great meaning in, Thomas Ligotti, rips that shroud away and we just see the meaningless and absurdity that life has become of the human race. Our supposedly meaningful jobs, that present themselves with great, wonder, and awe, and a sense of purpose for the person doing the task, Thomas Ligotti, shows us the inner workings of this. Thomas Ligotti, is merely saying that this nothing more then mechanical working. An illusion that we are just doing for the sake of doing it. Something we are forcing ourselves to do because we are told do it, because it is good, and that we have to do because its what puts food on the table. With this kind of thinking, we fool ourselves into doing these jobs because that’s the way it is to be done. However, Thomas Ligotti, looks at this and laughs. He describes these tasks, and nothing more then a waste of time, and life, and is just something to keep the boredom and pointlessness, of existence at bay. Even though the task itself is pointless.

If a person is going to pick this collection of short stories up, and think that this book is just going to give them some violent action, and show them dancing skeletons and woman running around with the tops off, screaming manically, I would laugh at them.

Thomas Ligotti, is not going to waste his time, with the rather cliché and pathetic tactics of Hollywood Horror. In fact, Thomas Ligotti's beautiful, and macabre prose, require concentration, and deep thinking, and even then you may not understand what is trying to be said, but Mr. Thomas Ligotti is not going to waste your time, with simple, thinking. In fact Thomas Ligotti, is merely giving you the props to creature your own meaning -- even though it may as well be as pointless as existing itself.

Some may look at this work of fiction and call it Nihilism. But it appears far from the truth. Thomas Ligotti is not a nihilist from what I can see. But rather an observer who is looking at the world, from his unblended eyes, and see's a world of meaningless and pointless random events that just happen to happen. Rather than looking for meaning, and performing experiments, and declaring its divine intervention, Thomas Ligotti just walks away from and accepts it as it is. There is no need to look for anything that is not there, as far as Mr. Ligotti is concerned. In fact, Mr. Ligotti, just accepts what is or was happening, as what it is. Mr. Ligotti, accepts a falling meteorite, as a simple falling rock from the sky. There is nothing to other than that. When a friend comes to knock on the door to talk about "Gas Station Carnivals," or another talks about creepy spider like creatures that have a human head, Thomas Ligotti, just accepts it as a random occurrence.

However Mr. Ligotti, also is quick to point out, other true facts of life. There are some people in the world, that we as human beings give them the power to control and even influence our lives. Funny thing is, we are not sure that they are there at all. We have no idea who or what they are, or even if they take a shape. Some days they appear to hide in an office, sending strange messages on paper down a street. Other times, they are a company that owns the doctors, and prescribes medications for your fears, so you can function in day to day life. Yet the characters are not sure who they are, and how they got this influence or power, but they don't appear to question it that much, but at the same time, they sometimes wonder. Even though the world is pointless, and meaningless, with random occurrences, Mr. Ligotti, also shows us, our own godlike power, that we can have over our fellow mankind.

Again this is not your typical horror. Mr. Ligotti, has gone back to the roots of horror, and is not going to waste his time, with simple shock techniques. Mr. Ligotti is going to make you think, scratch your head, re-read, and just wonder what the hell is going on. A true genius of horror. Though a real pity that he is so underappreciated.

Take Care Gentle Reader
Thank-you for Reading.

Stay Well Read


Friday 20 August 2010

Cloud Atlas

Hello Gentle Reader

Recently (more precisely about six minutes before i wrote this blog) i had finished my first David Mitchell novel. The novel? His most well known novel: "Cloud Atlas.". "Cloud Atlas," was short listed for the Booker Prize in 2004. One of his other novels "Number9Dream," was also shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 2001. His recent novel "The Thousand Autumns of Jacob de Zoet," has so far been long listed for the 2010 booker prize. (I would like to buy this book after I make some money. For a few reasons. I do not have a lot of hard cover books. I love the way David Mitchell writes. As well as David Mitchell, has a extraordinary blend of style as well as story telling. Balancing the two out.

"Cloud Atlas," is a rather interesting read. I was well aware that it was six different view points (or stories) connected together, and each one was written in a different style. When i first opened the book, and start reading, I am faced with a "epistolary story (novel)." Of course I roll my eyes, but am not going to be discouraged, and keep reading. I get the through that one. Though while reading it felt like complete agony sometimes, because I truly dislike that kind of writing style. Hoping for something better in the next story (because for the first part this book is like a box of chocolates, your just not sure what you are going to get.) -- will come along i keep reading. Yet again its another "epistolary story (novel)," which makes me grumble. I get through that one as quick as I can.

Next I am in the fast paced, action packed, story of Luisa Rey. I quite enjoyed this one. I found it both fascinating and to be a really fun read. Though after reading it I felt like a dietician who had just went into McDonalds and ate the greasiest amount of food he/she could have. Why you may ask? Because Literary Fiction is not always plot orientated and action packed, and always a fun read. I consider myself a Literary Fiction junkie, and well after treating myself, and feeling good about it -- well I felt kind of guilty (in a pleasurable kind of way). But that does strike a cord with me because, it shows to me that literary fiction doesn't always tell a story but rather is just style, and can be rather boring, and bore the reader into picking up something less better written, but more entertaining. There I think, Literary Fiction has a dilemma. However I still must admit that I enjoyed reading the fast paced, action packed story.

Probably my most favourite story of them all is "The Ghastly Ordeal of Timothy Cavendish." It’s just comedic and backwards, and wrong, and is just a nice read. I enjoyed the fact that the character is stubborn, and head strong. I also enjoy the often off beat sense of humour that pops up in places. It’s not overblown, or exaggerated. It’s just there, to make you have a chuckle, and have a laugh. Which to me is what good comedy is. Laugh after laugh, after laugh, after laugh, is just . . . well boring. A laugh is only good so many times. So this story, of circumstances gone wrong, and the nightmarish hell of a nursing home, and old people gone wild (not in the sexual sense) is truly quite funny. It was interesting to see the character more or less stripped of all his dignity et cetera, and then just thrown down on the ground like nothing. Treated like a child. Perhaps the way that the elderly and senior citizens is just abruptly painful and disgusting. They are human, and deserve a sense of respect, not to be talked down to like a pet or a dog. Still however, watching Timothy go toe to toe with the staff of the nursing home, is just funny. Though he's the one that often ends up down on the ground like a beaten down dog. Still his persistence is admirable and admirable.

The next tale is set in a futuristic world. Written in a style of a interview between what I first thought was a android who had committed some crime, and a man who the reader simply knows as the "Archivist." So as we go through this tale we learn that this creature is not a android or robot, but rather a clone. Clones in this world that is called a "Corpocracy," are simply made for the simple reason, to do the jobs that people who are "pureblood," (a pureblood would be a person such as you or myself gentle reader) would rather not do. However something’s are left . . . unknown to the reader about this world, which is fine and dandy. I consider myself a detailed orientated person, I allowed myself to continue on with this story. Our clone who has committed some crime that we do not know of, is telling her story and how she has become so smart, et cetera, and is telling the interviewer about the cruelty that the clones "fabricants," are put through. Several times we can see the unbridled paranoia of people or "purebloods," and their unjustified prejudices take place, in the most horrible ways, and yet are not looked down upon. As the reader, we ourselves are struck by this horror, but the people that commit them, are not. Towards the end, we can truly see that the human or "purebloods," desire of hedonistic and lazy living has come at a rather cruel, ironic, and disgusting truth.

The last story and probably one that i do not as like as much as the three middle ones, is about a boy named Zachary as he tells his story. It had the potential to be such a great read, it truly did. The story was there, its interesting and captivating, but (there is always a but) it just felt wrong. The way that it was presented, just crawled under my skin like some parasitic bug crawls under a dead corpses skin, and began to itch to the point where i could not take it anymore. Perhaps it’s not even the way it was written. No actually that is wrong. David Mitchell is a very good author, so I apologize for being misleading. Its the language i guess. The extensive use of apostrophe's to make a rather fascinating and interesting sounding language, and to really make the character appear unique drove me mad. I know there are people out there, that go nuts for the use of such dialect and writing. There are people out there though as well that can read "Finnegan’s Wake," without actually sitting there scratching their head and going "huh?" or "what the fuck is this about? this makes no sense!" so in reality different tastes for us all. The language that Zachary uses just could not -- or rather would not grow on me. I could not get into it, and I could not help but bitching in my head about how much I disliked it. I said it before though. The potential of a great story is there -- no there is no potential, the great story is there. The reader just needs to get past the language in order to go through with it, and to see the story for its worth. I must admit I could not, but I know others out there certainly can and will. Those readers will certainly enjoy the story of Zachary more then I was able to.

My first read of David Mitchell, has been successful and enjoyable. I will most certainly read more fiction by David Mitchell. Maybe after I accumulate up a bit of money I can go out and buy his new novel in hardcover. Though $32.00 i tell myself is a hell of a lot to pay. But i guess to own a few hard covers, and enjoy the story you do what you have to do. I certainly look forward to seeing more of what Mr. David Mitchell pops out. I would also like to give his traditional "coming of age," novel "Black Swan Green," a try as well. I think its underappreciated by many people, and I do think it would make for a compelling read, from his post-modern narrative techniques.

Thank-You For Reading Gentle Reader
Stay Well Read

Take Care


Thursday 19 August 2010

Literature as Dialogue

Hello Gentle Reader

Is Literature a form of dialogue?

Literature appears to share many common elements. Story, style, characters, and the exploration of a theme. Is it far stretched to say that Franz Kafka's notorious works of the surreal and the idea of mans absurd battle with society and itself, and the constant exploration of alienation, to have influenced others like:

Samuel Beckett
Thomas Bernhard
Haruki Murakami
Charles Bukowski
Albert Camus

among many others . . . ?

Some would say yes, while others would say no.

Literature has a lot in common. Authors read books. But authors also write books. Would it be far fetched to say that any of the above authors were not influenced by Franz Kafka. Could it not be said that Virginia Woolf, had influenced an entire generation of feminist authors?

Does this mean that Literature is dialogue? Some form of universal tongue, written in different languages, but always changing the way that the individual may see the world around them in some different form or another? Perhaps it does. However one must also take into account that many different people will read many different kinds of books.

Some remain in the science fiction genre. Others remain in the fantasy genre. While some may remain in the horror genre. And an "elite," group turn to the "Literary Fiction," that shapes and dictates "Mainstream," Literature. Though I of course find that sometimes funny, because one must always look so hard to find some actual "Literacy Fiction," rather then just genre fiction it appears.

The question still remains though. Is Literature a form of dialogue? In my (humble) opinion it is.

Herta Muller writes about the communist dictatorship and its bleak and horrible control it had on others.

Haruki Murakami, writes about the alienation that the people of Japan (usually younger people) feel, within the new consumerism driven economy.

Charles Bukowski, had written about the seedy low life of those that lived in a world of madness of booze, and otherwise hedonistic cravings.

Emile Zola, took the realism literary genre and advanced it into the "Naturalism." where he tried to show that the environment (and genetics) ultimately influences the person/individual's character.

Irvine Welsh, shows us the Scottish working classes day to day struggles, and the recreational drug use that encompasses the youth from the 1960's to the present.

Elfriede Jelinek, takes the novel and uses her characters like string puppets, and plays with them to show how the sexes (two genders) are always combating each other for domination of the other.

It appears that literature always has the same form of themes running through out. The themes, come from all over the world, and are put into various locations and settings. The themes are faced, and challenged by the characters from all over the world. Yet the basic principles of the novel or the story and often Literature itself, remain the same, opening it up for a sense of dialogue. Allowing the reader to talk to the others about what they interpret from the novel. This does make Literature a form of dialogue.

If the mechanics stay the same, if the themes are presented, and the authors shows these themes and allows for the characters to overcome or tragically fail, the reader is given a certain welcoming into the dialogue of literature. Though the dialogue is not like the normal dialogue that people may experience when they talk on the phone or with a friend face to face.

Literature is to show the reader as the individual something. What that may be, is most likely up to the reader. the author simply writes. what is written is words. words are composed by letters. Letters are in all honesty a symbol. Something that represents a certain syllable or sound. Therefore all words are, are just simple syllables and sounds. But what the author writes about is (usually) unique to the author themselves. The author may wish to entertain or enlighten. Perhaps both. Such a thing is not impossible. Its all just a matter of how the author does it.

Literature then is dialogue. A strange dialogue, that is unique and follows its own rules. -- yet again what they teach in English class in High School, Middle School, and Grades School, does not always meet the expectations of some of the books out there. For a quick example "Malloy," by Samuel Beckett, is set in two paragraphs. That’s it. In school we are often taught to write in paragraphs, and complete sentences. Well sometimes those rules are broken.

But literature remains a dialogue.

Horace Engdahl the former permanent secretary (Also Known As: spokesperson) for the Swedish Academy (the same Academy that awards the Nobel Prize for Literature) was reported as saying:

[he's talking about the United States] "too insular and ignorant to challenge Europe as the center of the literary world and does not really participate in the big dialogue of literature."

or something along those lines.

What Horace Engdahl meant by the "big dialogue of literature," and what i mean by literature as dialogue maybe different. But we can both agree that literature is like language, and language is communication -- therefore literature is dialogue. Both of us agree then that, literature is dialogue, and that remains the purpose of literature itself. To remain a dialogue, to entertain, and to enlighten. Sometimes however one of the two is taken to a more larger extent then the other. But the main objective of Literature itself is to remain a form of dialogue.

Thank-you for reading Gentle Reader

I apologize that i have not written more recently. I know I should have. My writing has been out of whacked recently but I am trying to get the groove back.

Stay Well Read Gentle Reader