The Conspiracy Against the Human Race by Thomas Ligotti
My rating: 2 of 5 stars
I’ve known of Ligotti’s work for a couple of decades now, but pre-Amazon it had been pretty hard going to find some of his stuff where I lived. Eventually, I collected some of his fiction and I enjoy it very much – he’s very much in the Lovecraft side of the weird. You know, the sort of Radcliffe-but-stronger feeling of the innate horror of the universe. Understandably, the guy’s a recluse.
He’s currently receiving a bit of attention thanks to the claims that True Detective‘s most interesting character’s worldview was plagiarised from this text by that series’ writer, Nic Pizzolatto. Personally, I don’t buy the accusation, and fall more on this side of the fence.
This text is non-fiction. It’s a distillation of thought about pessimist philosophy (actual, extinguish-the-world pessimism rather than “It’ll probably rain on me because life’s shitty” pessimism) coupled with some meditations on supernatural literature. And while it’s interesting to read the ruminations of so accomplished a horror stylist, it also seemed to me to be wrapped in agoraphobia and self-loathing; so much so that it coloured the text – when it wasn’t giving wristies to Peter Wessel Zapffe’s ideas.
There’s a lot of research in here. Lots of extended quotes, too. But the towering discomfort Ligotti reportedly feels with the rest of society poisons the well. It’s short, but it’s a drag.
I have a feeling that criticising (or disagreeing with, or not liking) Ligotti is a bit of a no-go as far as some elements of his fanbase are concerned. (Kind of similar to how some Lovecraft fans – and I love me some HPL – are all “we’re STILL talking about that?!” when the Providence misanthrope’s racism comes up.) Certainly, the book encourages that a bit – everything receives a bit of a kicking, with the impression being that people disagreeing with the whole MALIGNANTLY USELESS (always in caps!) nature of the universe are a bit dim.
(Even though, as Ligotti seems to hint towards the end, we’re never going to embrace the extinction procedure as a meaningful, attainable goal. So was all this just spitballing? Hmm.)
Huh? Yeah. That’s pretty much the feeling you’ll have throughout.
In the end, I may be taking the soft option by not identifying with this work. But I can’t say this was a world-beater (or world-ender) of a book. It’s probably more of interest if you’ve a background of reading in modern philosophy – but then it’s probably redundant if you’re au courant with the writers of which Ligotti speaks.
Something about this book makes me feel like it’d be favoured by Otto West. You probably know him.