Teatro Grottesco, a collection of short stories, is split into three categories: Derangements, Deformations and the Damaged & the Diseased. This is the first time I've read anything from this author (whom I've heard so many goods things said) and I'm really enjoying it so far. I find his style very easy to read (although he does belabour the point sometimes) and he successfully manages to weave a haunting atmosphere in a most indirect way.
What particularly drew my attention to Ligotti is that people said he wrote in the tradition of Lovecraft with subtlety generally lacking from many modern writers of horror. He unsettles the reader not by regaling us with explicit acts of violence or terror, but instead by weaving a mood and atmosphere with his words and the way he tells the story.
With Lovecraft, his themes often centered around an individual uncovering a mystery that led the protagonist to discover ever more unsettling and disturbing things about reality that threatens their sanity. Humanity and it's sense of order and being the dominant species are undermined and belittled by the discovery of beings that were they not somehow dormant or absent would swat us away like we would an insignificant insect.
Ligotti seems to pursue this theme but in a different way. There are malignant and supreme forces at work in the universe that defy all comprehension by us mere mortals. As the reader, don't expect to understand the these mysteries any better than the protagonists of the story. The torment/suffering of the human victims in Ligotti's stories are often almost incidental to the central but unknowable goals of these malignant forces/beings. Or else extra-ordinary lengths seem to have been gone to in order to inflict the most subtle and minute of torments upon a victim, as if more for the pleasure of the obscurity and peversity of the act than the suffering it causes.
There seem to be several recurring themes throughout this book (and throughout his other works for all I know); the illusions of the self and the soul, the way our lives and the lives of others are just a side-show distracting us from the "real" nature of existence, and the way infections and pain (particularly of the gastro-intestinal variety) can induce delirium that may enable us to penetrate these illusions (that we otherwise desperately cling to). Often the protagonist in his stories is an artist, a friend of an artist, or in a circle of artists/intellectuals who are searching for ultimate form of artistic expression.
I've never quite read anything like this before and Ligotti most definitely brings something new to the table. This won't be to everyone's taste. Many of the stories are difficult to make much sense of, and his pervading view on the nature of our existence is not particularly comforting.