A large and generally very impressive gathering of imaginative and stylish horror fiction, adding several new stories to those culled from Ligotti's previous collections Songs of a Dead Dreamer (1990), Grimscribe (1991), and Noctuary (1993). Poe and Lovecraft are the obvious influences in these richly atmospheric (and often funny) tales of introversion blossoming into obsession, and of antiquarian scholars unwisely uncovering things that really ought to have been buried. Ligotti's prefatory essay on ``The Consolations of Horror'' broods wittily about the kind of person who enjoys this sort of thing, advising helpfully that, in reading such material, ``for a little while we can pretend to stare the very worst right in the rotting face.'' Of the new stories, ``Teatro Grottesco'' and ``Severini'' portray with perhaps excessive flamboyance the neurotic sources and feverish aftermath of artistic creation. Both ``The Clown Puppet,'' whose absurdly menacing title figure memorably objectifies its narrator's ``nonsensical'' existence, and ``The Red Tower,'' about an abandoned factory whose unspeakable products are surreptitiously still being sent out into the unsuspecting world, show Ligotti doing what he does best: Turning the abstract matter of our unguarded dreaming moments into vivid and compelling nightmares.