Story Review from Thomas Ligotti’s Songs of a Dead Dreamer: “Eye of the Lynx” and “Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story”

I’m continuing my review of Thomas Ligotti’s work with the next couple stories from Songs of Dead Dreamer, which includes the concluding story of the Nyctalops Trilogy and a very interesting work of metafiction.

“Eye of the Lynx”

The narrator visits a kind of house of domination that also hosts a sort of freakshow that customers can walk through and watch. He is taken on a tour of the establishment by the hostess and witnesses several tableaux but is clearly too jaded to enjoy what he’s seeing; he’s simply bored and not getting the transgressive entertainment he desires. So he absorbs the hostess into his own body—she tries valiantly to escape, to no avail—and carries her off. I just wanted a bit more of a sense of what the narrator was, he’s some sort of supernatural entity clearly. For me this was the least successful of the three thematically-linked stories of Ligotti’s “The Nyctalops Trilogy,” though I still found it interesting, just a bit too baffling.

“Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story”

I think that Ligotti is having a lot of fun with the reader on this one. This is an extremely “meta” story on multiple levels that breaks the fourth wall in several ways. It begins as a notional work of non-fiction by a horror author (someone explicitly not Ligotti himself) on how to write horror fiction. He gives us the outline of a story he was never able to quite make work—a man named Nathan is heading out on a first date and dons a pair of pants that seem to kill their wearer—and then walks us through how we might go about presenting that story in different modes of storytelling: realistic, gothic, and experimental. He then adds an additional mode—the confessional—and that’s when the story lurches into another gear and takes a series of very dark, twisted turns. Fascinating story, though certainly the most “experimental” of Ligotti’s works thus far in the collection.

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