Monday, November 01, 2004


Thomas Ligotti remains one of our most important authors, and Fantastic Metropolis has just posted a long, intricate interview with him, conducted by Neddal Ayad. Highly recommended.

Given the recent posts about writing, this part resonated with me, as it's something I always do, starting long-hand, etc.:

Neddal Ayad: In his book Fiction author/editor Michael Seidman wrote that he thought younger writers were shortchanging themselves by not doing longhand or typewritten drafts and then retyping them into the computer. Any thoughts?

Thomas Ligotti: There’s a lot of truth to that. I found that I edited myself as I wrote in longhand, and then I edited myself again when I typed or keyed the manuscript. The latter was an important step in learning to edit my own writing that’s lost if you start off keying your work directly to the computer.

And an interesting comment about Nabokov. I would argue that the magic Ligotti refers to does work, in the same way our ability to hold something memory works, so if it doesn't work in Nabokov ultimately...well, it doesn't work at all in life, either...

Thomas Ligotti: The unique thing about Nabokov is that he practiced the writing of fiction as a form of sorcery. His novels and stories draw you in with their language and their humor, not to mention his troupe of demented narrators who seem to be descendants of Poe’s band of madmen. But behind the language and the humor there is another dimension, a world of a terrible desperation where Nabokov works like a wizard to make the impossible happen right before the readers eyes—specifically, to defeat the limitations of time and space, to recover the losses brought about by the ravaging vicissitudes of one’s life and by the course of history itself, and, ultimately, to defeat death.

This is the underworld of Nabokov’s works, and it’s most obvious and moving in his masterpiece, Lolita, wherein the principal characters, who are declared as dead in the preface to the book, are all brought back to life in quite spectral ways by the writing of the book itself. Of course, the magic doesn’t really work, except from a strictly aesthetic perspective, but perhaps that’s the deepest meaning of Nabokov’s fiction. In commenting about the taboo subject matter of Lolita, which has since become even more taboo, he mentioned two others that at the time were off limits to American writers: that of a successful black-white marriage and that of an atheist who lives a good and purposeful life and dies in his sleep at an advanced age. Nabokov was himself enough of an atheist not to believe in magic of any sort. Lovecraft argued that only a non-believer in the occult could successfully create the thrill of the fantastic and the supernatural—the feeling that all common sense and the apparent order of the world have been overturned—because such a thing was so alien to their view of the world as wholly materialistic. This was a self-serving remark, since Lovecraft himself didn’t believe in any form of the supernatural.