High-style horror stories in a classic literary mode, in expressiveness not far from the American masters, Poe and H.P. Lovecraft. Ligotti (Songs of a Dead Dreamer, 1990) writes out of what seems an all-embracing depression, making him willing to go into wipeout areas time and again and ask a lot both of himself and his readers. His narrators seldom effect any change; they simply observe a superbly described inner state, then leave, hungover. In ``The Last Feast of Harlequin,'' a professor obsessed with clowns locates a clown festival in the midwestern town of Mirocaw. He goes to observe and join the townsfolk in their festival, perhaps wearing his clown suit. But the festival is not meant for him. In fact, it is two festivals, one within the other, the inner one being a cruel festival of freaks who are detested and beaten by members of the larger clown festival. He joins the freaks and follows them out of town and down a hole in the earth wherein they have borne their frigid Winter Queen. In a cavernous earthen hall, the freaks begin turning into huge worms, and he flees up the black wormhole by which he entered. In ``The Glamour,'' the narrator enters a weird boarded-up movie house to find himself in a sparse audience surrounded by purple lights and seated amid hairy threads that bind all to their seats as they watch a cobweb screen on which is shown grisly purple organs being operated on. He leaves before he can be imprisoned by the floating and crawling hairs. In ``The Night School,'' he enters a dark, weird schoolground where strange figures stand around misshapen metal drums in firelight; then he goes into the hideously rotting school for a bizarre class in ``measurement of cloacal forces. Time as a flow of sewage. The excrement of space, scatology of creation...'' He leaves, finding the moon ``coated with a luminous mold, floating...in the great sewers of the night.'' Thirteen tales out of a maggoty delirium.
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