Vastarien

Thomas Ligotti, "Vastarien" in Songs of a Dead Dreamer (Silver Scarab Press: 1986). 

As far as cursed books go, neither the Necronomicon, nor the play The King in Yellow has anything on the pale gray bound Vastarien. There are features unique to this tome that I particularly like. First, the book itself picks its own readers. It does this by simply appearing blank to most would-be readers. Second, it is a book “that is not about something but actually is that something.” At a first stab, the mad Victor Keirion describes the book as a dream chronicle, but it becomes clear that it isn’t just a recollection of weird dreams; instead, the book is the dream一it composes the world and is not just a description of the world.

Ligotti turns many a notion on its head in this one: dream versus veridical experience, representation versus represented, and the dreamer versus the dreamed. But the big one in the story is the inversion of the real/unreal dichotomy in such a way that the unreal becomes the favored or dominant term. The protagonist Keirion seeks out the unreal essence of the world where all the natural elements are purged from it. This paradigm shift is mind-twisting, and watching Ligotti play with the idea is a maddening pleasure. The Carcosa-like dreamscape created here certainly feels like a nod to the work of Robert W. Chambers.

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