Eerie. That's the first word that pops to mind when thinking of Ligotti's style of writing. Like a word association test; Ligotti . . . Eerie. Ligotti has a unique style of writing. Quite rare when so many writers are trying to write "like" someone else. King, Campbell, Straub, Barker, the list of the imitated goes on. It must be admitted, however; when one reads Ligotti, one can see the pastiche of different styles. The influence of Lovecraft is particularly poignant. Indeed, "The Last Feast of Harlequin," is dedicated to Lovecraft. What one has to realize is that this is not imitation but mastery. Ligotti is not trying to write "like" someone else . . . He can write better. After reading Ligotti, one might think that he studied under Lovecraft, mastered that style, then moved onto another until he had mastered all styles he felt he needed. It is similar to how artists study under recognized masters then create their own works after finishing their apprenticeship. Ligotti is an artist unto himself, but one can tell the "styles" under which he is versed; just as one can tell the "styles" under which Remembrandt was versed.
Ligotti has a way of "bending" reality as, quite aptly, in a nightmare. More akin to Kafka, these are psychological skews in perception. But sometimes (and the scary part is that we never know whether or not the story we are reading falls into this particular "sometime") the horror is more than psychological, it is Lovecraftian. The first story in the collection, "The Frolic," is a good example of this. [STOP reading here if you do not want to know what happened in the story.] Is the prisonner simply an insane murderer or is he a being from a different plane of reality, a demon dimension bordering ours? Either way you look at the story, psychological (the killer is a psychopath) or supernatural (the killer is a demon from another dimension) you are hit with horror. The only difference is the difference between being hit with a 50 foot tidal wave or a 150 foot tidal wave. [RECOMMENCE reading now.]
Ligotti is not a complex writer; he is a sophisticated writer. A complex writer presents many parts, all of which may not go together. A sophisticated writer presents many parts, ALL of which serve an important purpose, like a well played chess match (or the engine block of a 65 Mustang). Ligotti has been indicted with being too ambiguous, too vague, in his writing. But the beauty of Ligotti's writing is that it is open to multiple interpretations. This is the reason for the confusion. His writing is not ambiguous, it is multifaceted. It is highly sophisticated with amazing prose, and I only hope that, unlike his Providence predecessor, Ligotti will not have to wait until after his death to receive the recognition he deserves as a truly original, truly eerie, voice in horror literature.