Tuesday, October 21, 2014

From “Eric Zann” to “The Bungalow House”

I know I am late to the party, but I must admit my growing enthusiasm and admiration for the work of Thomas Ligotti which just grows and grows as I read though his work, in between CWA reading / evaluating, and my own writing. 

My interest in Thomas Ligotti was initially sparked by Nic Pizzolatto’s True Detective. The True Detective HBO series really rocked my world with its fusion of crime fiction and the genre of weird fiction. Tracking down his work is rather expensive, as much is now out of print, so I asked my family not to buy me any birthday presents, as I’d like to celebrate my 51st year on this giant rock [trapped in space time] collecting and completing my Thomas Ligotti collection.  

In my youth I was an avid reader of horror, detective, mystery and the fiction of the weird; so I was delighted to revisit my love of horror and the weird, thanks to True Detective.

I have a particular fondness for Ligotti’s dark, and Lovecraftian-influenced tale ‘The Bungalow House’. It reminds me of one of my favourite HP Lovecraft tales, The Music of Eric Zann, an equally creepy tale, with a dream-like quality. It can be read here and a rather good video adaptation is available to view here. This little film version of "The Music of Erich Zann" is a horror film of haunting beauty and terrifying poetry, filmed in the style of the German Expressionist films of the 1920's.

A young student of metaphysics is forced to take the only lodging he can afford, a crumbling and decrepit building in a strange part of the city. Every night, he hears strange and unusual music coming from the room above him, music he cannot describe and cannot ignore.

He finds that the music above is being played by Erich Zann; a mute and eccentric German man who plays at night in a local orchestra. 

Fascinated by the man's genius, the student tries to befriend Zann and understand why such a great talent chooses to live in such squalor. Eventually, Howard learns of the secret behind Zann's music, one too terrifying to imagine.

Anyway, with roots deeply buried in the weird worldview that came from the imagination of HP Lovecraft, comes Thomas Ligotti’s "The Bungalow House", and here’s an extract -

“The bungalow house was such a bleak environment in which to make a stand: the moonlight through the dusty blinds, the bodies on the carpet, the lamps without any lightbulbs. And the incredible silence. It was not the absence of sounds that I sensed, but the stifling of innumerable sounds and even voices, the muffling of all the noises one might expect to hear in an old bungalow house in the dead of night, as well as countless other sounds and voices. The forces required to accomplish this silence filled me with awe. The infinite terror and dreariness of an infested bungalow house, I whispered to myself. A bungalow universe, I then thought without speaking aloud. Suddenly I was overcome by a feeling of euphoric hopelessness which passed through my body like a powerful drug and held all my thoughts and all my movements in a dreamy, floating suspension. In the moonlight that shone through the blinds of that bungalow house I was now as still and as silent as everything else.”

Thomas Ligotti described the story in an interview at Wonderbook -

“In ‘The Bungalow House’, I described a series of what I designated as “dream monologues” that were recorded on tape and intended to be works of art. The first dream monologue was a transcription of an actual dream I had and wrote down soon after I awoke, so it was also initiated my writing of the entire story. A second dream monologue in ‘The Bungalow House’ was only summarized, while a third was simply given a title, because at that point I had established the nature of the dream monologues in their incidents and meaning. For my purposes, to describe each dream monologue in its entirety would have slowed the pace of the story. All of the dream monologues were used to characterize the peculiar nature of the main character’s psychology. Sometimes I’ll characterize the events of a narrative as being dreamlike in some specific way, because over the years I’ve noted qualities that characterize dreams, such as that they have no beginning, an idea that was recently used in the movie Inception to prove to a character that she was functioning in a dream and not in conventional reality. 

A very short story I wrote called ‘One May Be Dreaming’ is pretty obviously a dream from beginning to end. The whole point of the story was that the protagonist was having a dream at the same time he was dying in real life. Usually, it’s not exposed until the end of the story that the whole thing was a dream. For his story ‘Where He Was Going,’ William Burroughs employs this method, his use of which he credits to Ernest Hemingway’s ‘Snows of Kilimanjaro.’ ‘Man from the South’ was Jorge Luis Borges’s rendition of this narrative structure. Perhaps I should say that I don’t think that dreams are anything more than rearranged experiences, sensations, and emotions. While they may easily be interpreted as symbolic or premonitory or whatever, I don’t believe that they are anything but intrusions upon what might otherwise be wholly unconscious hours of sleep.”

Thomas Ligotti interviewed at Wonderbook Read More Here

Listen to a wonderful dramatization from Pseudopod Here which will make you think, about what we term reality.

“The Bungalow House” was first published in 1995 in the horror fanzine The Urbanite and was nominated for a Bram Stoker award for short stories published in that year. Subsequently it was collected in THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY.

THOMAS LIGOTTI is one of the foremost contemporary authors of supernatural horror literature. His works been honored with several awards, including the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker award for the collection THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY (1996) and the novella MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE (2002). Revised, definitive editions of his first three story collections — SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER, GRIMSCRIBE, and NOCTUARY — were published in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. Revised editions of his collections THE AGONIZING RESURRECTION OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN AND OTHER GOTHIC TALES and DEATH POEMS were issued in 2013. Ligotti has also published THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE (2010), a nonfiction work that explores the intersection of the darker byways of literature, philosophy, and psychology. Forthcoming titles by Ligotti include a collection of interviews and a chapbook consisting of two newly written stories. The web site Thomas Ligotti Online was founded as a forum for discussions of and media related to Ligotti’s writings as well as those of wide range of authors, artists, and musicians whose work is associated with the horror genre, among other areas of interest to devotees of unconventional art and thought.

Incidentally http://pseudopod.org is a great resource for lovers of audio horror, with plenty of weird fiction available for download and streaming.

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