Orion Reads
a diary of books etc.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

Ligotti - My Work Is Not Yet Done

Imagine my thrill, my capering joy, to learn that the Ligotti volume My Work Is Not Yet Done was not in fact due out in something like 2010, but was in fact written in 2002 and published in paperback in 2009! For those who may not know, Ligotti is my current favorite author, especially the collection of short stories, Teatro Grottesco. His writing is what i can only describe as "Existential Horror", managing to capture a sense of supernatural revulsion at the very nature of existence itself, at even the possibility of existence. Ligotti's general thesis (which i love) is pretty well summarized by this quote, from the work at hand:

People do not know, and cannot face, the things that go on in this world, the secret nightmares that are suffered by millions every day ... and the excruciating paradox, the nightmarish obscenity of being something that does not know what it is and yet believes that it does know, something that in fact is nothing but a tiny particle that forms the body of The Great Black Swine Which Wallows in a Great River of Blackness that to us looks like sunrises and skyscrapers, like all the knotted events of the past the unraveling of those knots in the future, like birthdays and funerals, like satellites and cell phones and rockets launched into space, like nations and peoples, like the laws of nature and the laws of humanity, like families and friends, like everything, including these words that I write.

My Work Is Not Yet Done is a novella and two short stories which deal with the existential horror of the contemporary corporate workplace which so many of us have become familiar with. The first is eponymous, and deals with the supernatural unhinging of a mid-level manager at a large corporation, which itself of course is revealed to have sinister supernatural underpinnings of its own. The second is titled "I Have a Special Plan for This World", (Ligotti wrote the words to the Current 93 album of the same name) and presents again, an oppressive corporation with supernatural roots. The third is very brief and takes the form of camera directions for a movie.

I have to confess that i was somewhat disappointed by the first two stories. I felt they resorted to simple gore and terror where what i love about Ligotti is his ability to express horror without actually getting down to sort of literary wet-work. My conception of the ultimate Ligotti piece would be a story where in fact nothing scary happens, yet it terrifies the pants and socks off you. I think The Town Manager in Teatro Grottesco manages somewhat more effectively to communicate the cannibalistic nature of corporate existence. The last story in MWINYD contains a vignette where an enormous crowd of slaves waits before a ritualistic platform, upon which are five slaves who are to be ritualistically tortured and murdered. However, when the executioner climbs the platform, he unexpectedly freezes, like a motionless statue. One slave leaps from the crowd and onto the platform. He makes eye contact with the five on stage, but doesn't rescue them. Instead he performs a quick repair on the executioner-automaton and then returns to the crowd. - This, i think, captures much of the modern world quite nicely.

Alice's Adventures in Wonderland / Through the Looking Glass

I've been meaning to re-read Alice's Adventures in Wonderland for some time, and it's great. The last time i read it was probably in elementary school, and needless to say i got more out of it this time around. - Not the least of which is an appreciation of the illustrations, by John Tenniel. The edition i read (the "centenary edition" by Penguin, $4 like new at the Friends-Of-The-Library bookstore at Fort Mason) includes many footnotes, usually concerning how this or that particular scene or line is a reference to some actual event between Carroll and the Liddell family, especially of course, Alice Liddell. (that's her on the cover, at left) This edition also has Carroll's original version of the story, Alice's Adventures under Ground, essentially a compressed (or unexpanded) early version of AAiW. All in all, well worth [re]reading!