Teatro Grottesco, Paperback Book
4 out of 5 (6 ratings)


Thomas Ligotti is often cited as the most curious and remarkable figure in horror literature since H.

P. Lovecraft. His work is noted by critics for its display of an exceptionally grotesque imagination and accomplished prose style.

In his stories, Ligotti has followed a literary tradition that began with Edgar Allan Poe, portraying characters that are outside of anything that might be called normal life, depicting strange locales far off the beaten track, and rendering a grim vision of human existence as a perpetual nightmare.

The horror stories collected in Teatro Grottesco feature tormented individuals who play out their doom in various odd little towns, as well as in dark sectors frequented by sinister and often blackly comical eccentrics.

The cycle of narratives introduce readers to a freakish community of artists who encounter demonic perils that ultimately engulf their lives.


  • Format: Paperback
  • Pages: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Ebury Publishing
  • Publication Date:
  • Category: Horror & ghost stories
  • ISBN: 9780753513743



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Showing 1 - 5 of 6 reviews.

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Review by

If you're one that has nightmares (or daymares) this book will seem familiar. If you're one that usually dreams of fluffy bunnies and flowers that may change if you read this book. What is a nightmare but a familiar place or action that is intensified, put under a magnifying glass until it's presence is overwhelming? I enjoy my nightmares when I can get them because there's always the surety of waking up even if that option isn't evident during the action. Reading Ligotti is like having a waking nightmare... you can always close the book, but would you?Thomas Ligotti creates people and places that appear just off the edge of what we might consider reality. Pegged as a horror writer, he doesn't build suspense and surprise you with sudden attacks from hideous beasts. He doesn't charge at you with ax brandishing crazy people. Forget the ghosts, spirits and vampires that lurk in other horror tomes. Ligotti's prose slowly wraps around you and pulls you down into places that appear believable, places that seem familiar, and peopled by characters that you may have met (most are of the artistic character). Before you know it, he has brought you into a town you'd rather not visit and introduced you to people you'd rather not know. The horror of Ligotti lies in the familiar that is just slightly skewed.<i>Outside the walls of the Crimson Cabaret was a world of rain and darkness. At intervals, whenever someone entered or exited through the front door of the club, one could actually see the steady rain and was allowed a brief glimpse of the darkness. Inside it was all amber light, tobacco smoke, and the sound of the raindrops hitting the windows, which were all painted black. On such nights, as I sat at one of the tables in that drab little place, I was always filled with an infernal merriment, as if I were waiting out the apocalypse and could not care less about it. I also like to imagine that I was in the cabin of an old ship during a really vicious storm at sea or in the club car of a luxury passenger train that was being rocked on its rails by ferocious winds and hammered by a demonic rain. Sometimes, I thought of myself as occupying a waiting room for the abyss (which of course was exactly what I was doing) and between sips from my glass of wine or cup of coffee I smiled sadly and touched the front pocket of my coat where I kept my imaginary ticket to oblivion.</i>

Review by

I almost feel bad giving this only one star. Ligotti is talented, without a doubt. His choice of words is masterful, his descriptions often startling (for better or worse). However, neither of those attributes were able to hold up what I found to be slow, boring stories.Ligotti is often compared to Lovecraft, but I feel this isn't an accurate comparison. Underscoring Lovecraft's stories was a continued sense of dread, or wrongness or otherness pulsing unseen under the skin. Ligotti seems to aim for that very trait, but he misses, leaving me with only page after page of banality that ends in a whimper, not a bang

Review by

Inhabiting geographies which exist only in the margins of reality between nightmare and wakefulness, Ligotti's stories distort the reader's perceptions of banal everyday life, leaving behind the debris of dreams. Whether populated by characters in search of some semblance of a truth, characters who know the truth only too well, or completely unpopulated as archaeological ruins, each story has the ability to relate to its reader's familiarity with situations as mundane as factories, small towns, corporate offices. But then Ligotti, before the reader unfamiliar with his work, is even aware, gradually upends the scenario until only a creeping dread remains.The doomed denizens of a small town are at the mercy of a town manager whose directives eclipse the divide between eccentric and insane. A man recalls visits in his youth to carnivals which seemed to always be located adjacent to gas stations. An apparently abandoned factory located literally in the middle of nowhere may yet unburden its dark secrets. Metafiction abounds in the title story's theater troupe and in a cultish excursion by the followers of a self-appointed guru into landscapes of mind and body.In service to this pursuit, Ligotti utilizes a trove of descriptive language worthy of all the comparions to Poe and Lovecraft (though with an infinitely more assured grasp of grammar, structure and flow). Plot often becomes secondary to the picture being painted, thus allowing the reader to become immersed in the nightmare offered. The stories in this collection, some previously published elsewhere, others new to this book, are lyrical in the manner of a funeral dirge. For those seeking to explore behind the curtains of reality, Ligotti makes a wonderful tour guide.

Review by

nothing is ever quite right, creep show type, made for weird reading, yet seducing.

Review by

Impressed enough by the Ligotti work I've seen in anthologies devoted to following up on H. P. Lovecraft's Cthulhu Mythos, I bought this anthology. Is Ligotti a Lovecraftian writer? Well, based on this collection - and I have no idea how representative it is - yes and no. There are no explicit Lovecraftian allusions in this collection - no references to the forbidden books, nightmare locations, and mysterious entities created by Lovecraft and those adding to the Mythos. Yet, the pre-eminent, most important aspect of Lovecraft's work, "cosmic horror", the "infinite terror and dreariness" of existence, as one story here puts it, is shared by Ligotti. Yet, that horror is expressed in vaguer and more general terms than in Lovecraft. In one of his stories, the horrific revelation is one of man's hidden evolutionary past, miscegenation in a family's past, the existence of alien races. The revelation at the end of a Ligotti story is rarely so specific. And their prose differs. The scientific references in a Lovecraft story are not here. The technological trappings of a Lovecraft story frequently link it to its time of composition. Ligotti's stories are noticeably lacking in any specific technological reference. An "audiotape" is the most time specific reference there is. Otherwise, they could be set almost anytime during the 20th century. Ligotti's prose reminded me more of Lovecraft's idol, Poe, than Lovecraft. Always told in the first person, they frequently deal with odd psychological states and fixations. The notion of the alternate self, the doppelganger as pioneered by Poe in his "William Wilson", also shows up a lot. In fact, if one wanted to be snarky, you could say Ligotti was a writer of bloated prose, stories almost always told in the same way, ending usually with some horrible revelation of malevolent, vague cosmic forces, a recycler of the images of dilapidated buildings and towns, abandoned factories, clowns and puppets, and intestinal viruses. In short, Ligotti's not a storyteller telling many tales in many ways, but a writer obsessively telling the same story the same way. Yet, when that story is worth telling and told well, that sort of writer is also called an artist. And, by that definition, Ligotti is an artist. What might seem, on a quick reading, bloated prose with frequent repetition of the same phrases and the same details of event and character, is not exactly poetry but it is incantory, akin to the repetition often found in writing for children. But here, rather than a child, it is adults introduced to a world of horrible wonder, the world of "the icy bleakness of things". The use of those recurring images is varied enough not to bore - though I can see some readers perhaps wanting to ration themselves an occasional Ligotti story rather than gulping them down all at once. And Ligotti is consistently, even more than Lovecraft, a writer of weird, not horror, fiction. The rewards of each are different. Ligotti groups his 13 stories into three sections - Derangements, Deformations, and the Damaged and Diseased. These classifications are a bit too general to provide a sense of the collection. Two of Ligotti's best stories deal with the world of work. In "The Town Manager", we are told of the mysterious disappearances of a town's unelected, unrequested town managers, each of which institute reforms which hasten the town's decay. "Our Temporary Supervisor" has the narrator in a meaningless job detailing how a new employee, in collusion with a new, horribly undefined and unseen supervisor, transforms a factory job into virtually round the clock enslavement via social pressure. While it is tempting to see these stories as commentaries on politics and capitalism, I think Ligotti has just set his existential horror in a more recognizable, specific setting. The Quine Corporation is the force behind the latter story and is also mentioned in "My Case for Retributive Action". The title brings to mind the opening of Poe's "The Casque of Amontillado" and the plot Kafka's "Metamorphoses". The story seems to share the same vague setting, near the border of an unnamed country, with "In a Foreign Town, In a Foreign Land". In this collection of four first person accounts obliquely gazing the horror encroaching on a town, Lovecraft fans may strain to see echoes of the master's "The Festival" and "The Shadow Over Innsmouth". The technique of multiple accounts in one story also shows up, as an artist's vignettes rather than recollections of characters, in "Sideshow, and Other Stories". It is an interesting story of trying to compare our world to an unknown order which may or may not exist, but compounded ambiguities make it a failure. Also, in the failed category, is "The Clown Puppet". The titular figure and his attached strings are a metaphor for unseen forces. But the image is too common, and the plot not very compelling. "Purity" is another strong story. Rather than demolishing a vague and general notion of existence and replacing it with some general, nihilistic notion of cosmic reality, this story attacks the universal human anchors and consolations of country, faith, and family. The child narrator's father is up to something creepy in the basement - but Ligotti neatly surprises us with what that horror is and then throws in another hint about what the rest of the family has been up to. "The Red Tower" is the most Poe like story in its prose which recounts the odd appearance, history, and function of an abandoned factory. "Teatro Grottesco" has a writer seeking out a mysterious cabal that strips artists of their creative impulses and powers. Like so many stories in this collection, its narrator ultimately embraces the maleovelent forces that are revealed. This is also the first of four stories in the collection's last section that feature physical distress, specifically gastrointestinal distress, as a revelatory ordeal. "Gas Station Carnivals" is all right as a story but is mostly interesting for the delusional details of the title attraction. "The Bungalow Horror" combines a Poe-like doppelganger with "Teatro Grottesco"'s notion of destroyed artist. It is also something of a rumination of what people get out of writers like Lovecraft and Ligotti - and how the art serves its creators. "Severini" is the most physical story and the story whose images most evoke Lovecraft. Actually, its glimpses of a priesthood of Tantric Medicine on an island near the Philippines using dysentery as a tool of enlightenment reminded me of one of Lovecraft's favorite stories - A. Merritt's "The Moon Pool". "The Shadow, the Darkness" is a powerful story that, in its horrific insistence on humans as only bodies, tools for the Tsalal (evidently, recurring entitites in Ligotti's works) raises questions of free will and cosmic parasitism.

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