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Songs Of A Dead Dreamer [Paperback]

Carroll & Graf Publishers
5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)

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From Publishers Weekly

A reissue of Ligotti's first horror collection, which appeared in a limited edition in 1986, this volume includes several revised stories and others new to the book. Few of them are truly horrific; the emphasis is on language--sometimes poetic, achieving the quality of a woven tapestry, sometimes merely drab. Not one is strong on plot. "Notes on the Writing of Horror" and "Professor Nobody's Little Lectures on Supernatural Horror" straddle the line between nonfiction and fiction; they contain self-descriptive essays that are evocative of mood and setting. "The Chemyst" has a new drug he shares with London's lowlife. "The Lost Art of Twilight" concerns a man trying to live down his mother's association with vampires. The cleverly titled "Drink to Me Only with Labyrinthine Eyes" has an equally clever denouement. "Masquerade of a Dead Sword" is heroic fantasy with a twist. "The Music of the Moon" reminds one of Charles Williams's supernatural thriller. The other 13 stories suffer from combinations of murky prose, meaningless events and lack of focus.
Copyright 1990 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of cryptic dread and dementia. Oct. 5 1998
Format:Paperback
Here's the biggest compliment I can pay Thomas Ligotti: he writes as though he were completely unaware of any other horror fiction written in his lifetime. There is not a major horror writer today whose work even vaguely resembles Ligotti's. I've heard him compared to Poe and Lovecraft but even these comparisons are misleading. His prose and imagery are far more akin to those of Bruno Schulz, the great Polish fantasist who wrote "Street of Crocodiles." These stories spill over with chilling images, irrational "plots," and a sense of dread that feels less like fiction than it does the kinds of horrible dreams we have while suffering a high fever. If you don't recognize that as high praise, you probably shouldn't read this book. But I love it.
"Songs of a Dead Dreamer" is his earliest collection, and perhaps because of this, I feel it still packs the biggest wallop. But if you like these stories, I recommend "Grimscribe" and "Noctuary."
A personal note: Years ago I had the chance to illustrate Ligotti's story "The Night School" for a small press publication. The editor sent me a copy of the manuscript, full of Ligotti's own notes and corrections. Reading the story in that form, feeling that much closer to the original process that brought the story into being, was an awesome experience. I felt compelled to examine the manuscript, as though somewhere amid its wandering margins and sloppy typing I might detect a sign, however cryptic, a clue as to how to tap into the same chilling dreamworld that Ligotti described so beautifully. It didn't work, of course. But "Night School" did inspire a pretty good illustration and reading Ligotti did provide one of the high points during my own dubious ventures into the realm of horror fiction.
Was this review helpful to you?
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Format:Paperback
The truth is that Thomas Ligotti has come out of seemingly
nowhere in just the last ten years and has, in that time, set a new
standard in literature of the supernatural. I picked up _Songs_
in 1992, initially for the Washington Post's declaration, "Put this
on the bookshelf between Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft
where it belongs." My hopes were more than realized. Ligotti
is not only as good as the nineteenth and twentieth century
masters of the macabre. For the select few who have read his
material, he is simply one of the finest authors of the terrifying and
disturbing short story and novella ever to grace the English
language.
Do I exaggerate? Read this compilation of
masterworks and ask yourself afterwards whether Ligotti will
be considered the groundbreaking Poe or Lovecraft of the
late twentieth century. When the likes of King and Straub are
mostly forgotten in a century, it is my firm opinion that Thomas
Ligotti's stories, such as the terrifying "Dr. Locrian's Asylum",
will still be read by those students of the genre who will
still appreciate the authors subtlety, flowing eloquence, and his
chilling originality and detail of plot and character
Was this review helpful to you?
Most Helpful Customer Reviews on Amazon.com (beta)
Amazon.com: 4.3 out of 5 stars  19 reviews
43 of 45 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A masterpiece of cryptic dread and dementia. Oct. 5 1998
By Jeffrey Osier - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Here's the biggest compliment I can pay Thomas Ligotti: he writes as though he were completely unaware of any other horror fiction written in his lifetime. There is not a major horror writer today whose work even vaguely resembles Ligotti's. I've heard him compared to Poe and Lovecraft but even these comparisons are misleading. His prose and imagery are far more akin to those of Bruno Schulz, the great Polish fantasist who wrote "Street of Crocodiles." These stories spill over with chilling images, irrational "plots," and a sense of dread that feels less like fiction than it does the kinds of horrible dreams we have while suffering a high fever. If you don't recognize that as high praise, you probably shouldn't read this book. But I love it.
"Songs of a Dead Dreamer" is his earliest collection, and perhaps because of this, I feel it still packs the biggest wallop. But if you like these stories, I recommend "Grimscribe" and "Noctuary."
A personal note: Years ago I had the chance to illustrate Ligotti's story "The Night School" for a small press publication. The editor sent me a copy of the manuscript, full of Ligotti's own notes and corrections. Reading the story in that form, feeling that much closer to the original process that brought the story into being, was an awesome experience. I felt compelled to examine the manuscript, as though somewhere amid its wandering margins and sloppy typing I might detect a sign, however cryptic, a clue as to how to tap into the same chilling dreamworld that Ligotti described so beautifully. It didn't work, of course. But "Night School" did inspire a pretty good illustration and reading Ligotti did provide one of the high points during my own dubious ventures into the realm of horror fiction.
16 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Dreams of a Mad Mutant Borges of the Midwest April 19 2001
By David L. Mccabe - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Hardcover
This unarguable classic collection of stories appeared at the end of the 1980s. Horror fiction, or what publishers chose to market as horror fiction, was big business. However, there is a large variety of styles under this arbitrary umbrella ("Horror isn't a genre, it's an emotion", editor/author David Hartwell). Authors such as Stephen King and Dean Koontz had become best sellers with novels often using pulp-orientated elements (vampires, ghouls, werewolves, or assorted permutations) that invade our modern society. Others wrote popular horror novels with the villain(s) being psychotic or sociopathic, but an explainable (and real) element in our society. One of my favorite styles of horror, however, could best be described as "hallucinatory nightmare", which is rarer and probably more difficult to pull off. Ligotti succeeds time and time again with a rich lyrical style that is varied, multi-leveled, and often witty as well. There are the former mentioned types of tales here. There's a great vampire story, and you'll meet a few psychos, one for instance who loves flowers, but it's the stories of reality rotting away or perhaps take place entirely in an askew dream fantasy where Ligotti makes his mark. Stories like "Dr. Voke and Mr. Veech", or "the Greater Festival of Masks" take place in the landscape of a surreal nightmare. In one of his best stories, "Alice's Last Adventure", a twisted ode to Lewis Carroll, the narrator's reality may have literally turned inside out. Amongst all the vacuous abstract blather about literature and art, good fiction's ultimate goal, along with telling a good story, is to create the mental state in the reader of a "waking dream", as the late John Gardner accurately described it. A world is created in the reader's imagination and he or she, while reading, forgets it's merely words on paper. For myself, good horror fiction, for perhaps a number of reasons, has always produced the most vivid "waking dream" state, and the hallucinatory nightmare style best of all. Probably since the logic is often skewed or hidden as in actual dreams. "Notes On Horror: A Story", which unfortunately does not appear in his later comprehensive collection, "The Nightmare Factory" makes a great litmus test for whether you're a lover of "weird fiction". If you finish it and question what is this Ligotti guy's problem, this type of horror probably isn't for you. On the other hand, it may thrill, delight, and amuse you and you may after all, as Ligotti says, "find it all so easy".
15 of 18 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ligotti is undoubtedly the only living master of terror. Jan. 8 1996
By A Customer - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
The truth is that Thomas Ligotti has come out of seemingly
nowhere in just the last ten years and has, in that time, set a new
standard in literature of the supernatural. I picked up _Songs_
in 1992, initially for the Washington Post's declaration, "Put this
on the bookshelf between Edgar Allan Poe and H.P. Lovecraft
where it belongs." My hopes were more than realized. Ligotti
is not only as good as the nineteenth and twentieth century
masters of the macabre. For the select few who have read his
material, he is simply one of the finest authors of the terrifying and
disturbing short story and novella ever to grace the English
language.
Do I exaggerate? Read this compilation of
masterworks and ask yourself afterwards whether Ligotti will
be considered the groundbreaking Poe or Lovecraft of the
late twentieth century. When the likes of King and Straub are
mostly forgotten in a century, it is my firm opinion that Thomas
Ligotti's stories, such as the terrifying "Dr. Locrian's Asylum",
will still be read by those students of the genre who will
still appreciate the authors subtlety, flowing eloquence, and his
chilling originality and detail of plot and character
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Lurid songs, lost cinema, überdense poetry, a panorama of nightmares, uncomfortable masks and highly stylized perversities. June 22 2006
By yorgos dalman - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Paperback
Urban solitude, houses that are suggested to appear and disappear, empty voids laying hidden behind dark crumbled brick facades, streets with a mysterious accumulation of names seemingly coming from nowhere, doors hanging in their hinges but do not open that easily, pieces of clothing laying abandoned in the street, shadows rise and fall, voices in the distance calling your name, or do they?

These are the settings for the superb short story "The greater festival of masks" and believe me, this is just the beginning. From here on, from the moment lead character Noss walks in a shop that solely sells costumes and masks and falls asleep, it only gets worse, and more eerie, and untouchable. And at the end, you're not realy sure what you've just witnessed.

What happens exactly behind the deceitfull brick walls of the old houses and behind the wooden fence at the back of the shop? Why de some masks perfectly fit the customer's face while other hurt and slide of with every step you take. What cries out underneath the blank faces of the inhabitant who have no facial features or expressions what so ever?

Like the best poetry there is so much more than meets the eye. It's between the lines that the real things happen, but what is reallity and when do dreams and nightmares take over?

A lot has been said about "Songs of a dead dreamer", Thomas Ligotti's debut collection of short stories. The comparisons with Poe and Lovecraft seems endless, Kafka and Bruno Schulz are mentioned as well because of their nightmarishness and plotless compositions.

You could add the cinema of David Lynch and Roman Polanski if you like, even throw in the animated shorts of the twin brothers Timothy and Stephen Quay, especially their master creation "Streets of crocodiles" (and, why not, their solo feature film "Institute Benjamenta" as well.) And how about some hints at Jan Svankmajer's surreal work like "Faust", "Alice", and surely the suggested perversities of the absurd "Conspirators of pleasure".

And yet, with all these big names in a long line, if one author can be called original and being capable of standing completely on his own, it is Mr. Ligotti. One of the reasons why this is a justified statement is because Ligotti has a gift not many writers of the horror genre have: style. Ligotti's prose sings, cries, wanders, but never realy lingers off. Sentences can be long at time, but never tedious, their is a meaning in every word and an underlying motivation for each syllable. It's the horrifying stuff of heavey metal perfectly blend with the otherworldlyness of a choir chant and the bravoura of an opera.

You could call Ligotti's prose even autistic because it describes a world of its own in a language that stands on its own and seems to be introverted, no matter how many word-explosions and super nova's of illuminations and imagery it may contain. Its locked in itself, it is both lock and key, and the reader has but one choise, go along with the lyrical flow and enter the forbidden zone of Ligotti's unique language or stay out and leave.

Having said this, I would like to mention one more film to illustrate these last statements about this unique kind of literary autism, namely Andrei Tarkovski's "Stalker": a highly unique and eerie film, created by one of the worlds best cinematic stylists, and standing completely on his own, no other movie can be compared with it, and to make things even more interesting: "Stalker" is about a guide who takes two men, a writer and a scientist, into a mysterious "forbidden zone"; a dark, desolate place which dangers and clues consist mostly in the minds of the audience.

To me, it could have been made from the perfect Ligotti script.

In a way, this book could easily have been called "Movies of a dead dreamer" or "Dreams of a dead poet" or "In the twilight of dead films" or "A panorama of dead songs" and that just shows in how many ways you can look at Ligotti's craft. And that should tell you enough.

I could go on for much longer, there is so much to discover in this one volume. "Dr. Locrian's asylum" for instance, about the creepy, unimaginable history of an insane asylum where patients were kept for something other than a straight forward cure... Repelled citizens who have no other choise than to create a revolution against the building and the restless ghosts it keeps behind its windows. And the eventual downfall of the entire town as result.

I will say no more. You stop listening. Turn the pages before they crumble between your fingers. Be a blessed audience to these rare little songs. They will haunt you long after nightfall.... and thank all the Gods in the netherworlds for that.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars bizarre Oct. 4 2013
By Nancy Munson - Published on Amazon.com
Format:Kindle Edition|Verified Purchase
This author has a certain style of writing that I'm not sure I can take in an anthology. Many of the stories seemed repetitive. Just me maybe
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