Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Tuesday, June 07, 2005

A Confederacy of Dunces, Thomas Ligotti

Well, it's official. A Confederacy of Dunces is, in fact, the most charming book i've ever read. It's basically a story about a fat offensive bombastic antiachieving slob named Ignatius and his misadventures in colorful New Orleans. Some folks are too irritated by Ignatius as a character to read the book, and honestly, i can't fault them; you'll probably love or hate this book and it's not one where i'm going to argue that my side is right.

Ignatius speaking with a hot-dog vendor:

Ignatius chewed with a blissful savagery, studying the scar on the man's nose and listening to his whistling.
"Do I hear a strain from Scarlatti?" Ignatius asked finally.
"I thought i was whistling 'Turkey in the Straw.'"
"I had hoped that you might be familiar with Scarlatti's work. He was the last of the musicians," Ignatius observed and resumed his furious attack upon the long hot dog. "With your apparent musical bent, you might apply yourself to something worthwhile."
Ignatius chewed while the man began his tuneless whistling again. Then he said, "I suspect that you imagine 'Turkey in the Straw' to be a valuable bit of Americana. Well, it is not. It is a discordant abomination."
"I can't see that it matters much."
"It matters a great deal, sir!" Ignatius screamed. "Veneration of such things as 'Turkey in the Straw' is at the very root of our current dilemma."
"Where the hell do you come from? Whadda you want?"
"What is your opinion of a society that considers 'Turkey in the Straw' to be one of the pillars, as it were, of its culture?"
"Who thinks that?" the old man asked worriedly.
"Everyone! Especially folksingers and third-grade teachers. Grimy undergraduates and grammar school children are always chanting it like sorcerers." Ignatius belched. "I do believe that i shall have another of these savories."

It's a darned shame that John Toole killed himself at thirty-two.

Am currently reading (devouring) Songs of a Dead Dreamer by Thomas Ligotti, which Kai, bless her, got me from her bookshop. I didn't think he actually had any books, just appearances in strange places. It's a late-80s book of existential horror, which really is beyond me to describe. I try to paraphrase the feeling by paraphrasing a segment from I Have A Special Plan For This World, by Current93 with words by Ligotti:

    Imagine, the voice said,
    a language that is conceived solely to speak
    of a world that is populated with people and things.
    take away the things,
    take away the people.
    Take away the world and the words,
    and what remains
    it asked me.

.. they're sort of koans of Horror.

Unfortunately several of the stories still rely on just very bad essentially physical things happening to good people, but there's enough of the existential in there to make me love it. I suspect that Ligotti's later work is more distilled and distances itslf further from the simple physical terror genres. At least i hope so, as the physical terror genre doesn't do much for me.


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