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Author Topic: Pseudopod 350: The Bungalow House  (Read 8764 times)
Bdoomed
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« on: September 08, 2013, 02:48:57 AM »

Pseudopod 350: The Bungalow House

by Thomas Ligotti

“The Bungalow House” was first published in 1995 in the horror fanzine The Urbanite and was nominated for a Bram Stoker award for short stories published in that year. Subsequently it was collected in THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY.

THOMAS LIGOTTI is one of the foremost contemporary authors of supernatural horror literature. His works been honored with several awards, including the Horror Writers Association’s Bram Stoker award for the collection THE NIGHTMARE FACTORY (1996) and the novella MY WORK IS NOT YET DONE (2002). Revised, definitive editions of his first three story collections — SONGS OF A DEAD DREAMER, GRIMSCRIBE, and NOCTUARY — were published in 2010, 2011, and 2012, respectively. Revised editions of his collections THE AGONIZING RESURRECTION OF VICTOR FRANKENSTEIN AND OTHER GOTHIC TALES and DEATH POEMS were issued in 2013. Ligotti has also published THE CONSPIRACY AGAINST THE HUMAN RACE (2010), a nonfiction work that explores the intersection of the darker byways of literature, philosophy, and psychology. Forthcoming titles by Ligotti include a collection of interviews and a chapbook consisting of two newly written stories. The web site Thomas Ligotti Online was founded as a forum for discussions of and media related to Ligotti’s writings as well as those of wide range of authors, artists, and musicians whose work is associated with the horror genre, among other areas of interest to devotees of unconventional art and thought.

Your reader this week – Ralph Walters – used to run The Zombie Astronaut’s Frequency Of Fear and you can still find the old posts at the link.



“The bungalow house was such a bleak environment in which to make a stand: the moonlight through the dusty blinds, the bodies on the carpet, the lamps without any lightbulbs. And the incredible silence. It was not the absence of sounds that I sensed, but the stifling of innumerable sounds and even voices, the muffling of all the noises one might expect to hear in an old bungalow house in the dead of night, as well as countless other sounds and voices. The forces required to accomplish this silence filled me with awe. The infinite terror and dreariness of an infested bungalow house, I whispered to myself. A bungalow universe, I then thought without speaking aloud. Suddenly I was overcome by a feeling of euphoric hopelessness which passed through my body like a powerful drug and held all my thoughts and all my movements in a dreamy, floating suspension. In the moonlight that shone through the blinds of that bungalow house I was now as still and as silent as everything else.”



Listen to this week's Pseudopod.
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flintknapper
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« Reply #1 on: September 08, 2013, 07:46:29 AM »

Loved it! Loved it! Loved it!

I take the tale, as not just the descent into madness, but rather the onset of schizophrenia. I might be wrong about that, but that is what I thought. Given the introduction I was thinking ghosts so the ending was unexpected.

Writing was steady with good detail. I pictured our narrator living in southern California, but he could have been in any American city. I do not think it was ever spelled out.

Reader was similarly good. Clear but edgy and the production values for the recording were great. It helped pull me into the reading.

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YellowJester1
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« Reply #2 on: September 09, 2013, 11:39:02 AM »

Quite a razor-sharp observation, flintknapper. "The Bungalow House" is in fact the only non-supernatural, psychological horror story I've written. No literally spectral elements whatever. The narrator is indeed mad and unreliable. This is not the case with any of my other narrators.

TL
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CaptNink
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« Reply #3 on: September 10, 2013, 10:54:32 AM »

Awesome! I loved this story!

I have to say, the narrator's "fascination" with THE bleakness of the bungalow house and the factory hit close to home for me. For some reason, I too have some weird fascination with old decaying buildings and bleak locales.

But I'm not crazy. I guarantee it.  Cheesy

Very well done!
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #4 on: September 10, 2013, 02:21:10 PM »

(I'm not sure about book-recommending etiquette so I will remove if this is inappropriate, just let me know!)

Two unreliable-narrator stories I would really recommend are The Red Tree and The Drowning Girl, both by Caitlin R Kiernan. I think they're available as audiobooks too. The extent of the supernatural influence (if any) is entirely unclear and up to the reader to decide (even the narrator doesn't seem sure). I'd never encountered that in a story before and really enjoyed it.
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CaptNink
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« Reply #5 on: September 10, 2013, 03:10:38 PM »

Quite a razor-sharp observation, flintknapper. "The Bungalow House" is in fact the only non-supernatural, psychological horror story I've written. No literally spectral elements whatever. The narrator is indeed mad and unreliable. This is not the case with any of my other narrators.

TL

I tried looking for a Kindle copy of "The Nightmare Factory" on Amazon, but it's only available in paperback. Any chance of a Kindle version soon?  Cheesy
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Kat_Rocha
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« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2013, 05:53:51 PM »

I too thought we were watching this guy descend into schizophrenia. But even so, I was drawn into this amazing sense of wonder he had at finding a piece of art that spoke to him so perfectly. I think we've all had that moment at least once in our lives (I really hope so at least) where art or music or the written word filled you up and patched a hole in you that you didn't know existed. What lengths would you go to in order to have that feeling?

-Kat
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entropyblues
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« Reply #7 on: September 15, 2013, 06:01:39 PM »

Loved this story when I first read it, and loved Ralph Walter's reading of it. Having the dream monologues and the story narrated by the same person, with only the tape-hissing processing added, creates some wonderful interplay between the content of this particular story and the medium. One of my favorite episodes, so far.

Quite a razor-sharp observation, flintknapper. "The Bungalow House" is in fact the only non-supernatural, psychological horror story I've written. No literally spectral elements whatever. The narrator is indeed mad and unreliable. This is not the case with any of my other narrators.

TL

This sent my head whirling. I've always thought most of your stories existed at the ambiguous intersection between human madness and the supernatural, easily pushed in either direction by reader interpretation. I suppose this means I'll have to go back and start re-reading again. Oh, and thank you: "Teatro Grottesco" was enormously influential in shaping how I wanted to write.

I tried looking for a Kindle copy of "The Nightmare Factory" on Amazon, but it's only available in paperback. Any chance of a Kindle version soon?  Cheesy

Even if it's not available, "Nightmare Factory", with the exception of six stories, is composed of the contents of "Songs of a Dead Dreamer", "Grimscribe", and "Noctuary", which are available on Kindle currently, at very reasonable prices. I don't think there's a lackluster piece anywhere in the bunch. "Teatro Grottesco" and "My Work is Not Yet Done" are also available and fantastic.
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CogShoggoth
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« Reply #8 on: September 16, 2013, 08:36:10 PM »

Made me think of the laws of thermodynamics: you can't win, you can't break even, and you can't get out of the game. The Bungalow House is the universe defined by the laws: there is no where to go, there is nothing you can do, and there is no one you can know. For some this realization is disturbing. Sleep and dreaming allows us to escape from knowing we can't escape this universe and ultimately will just be recycled. The librarian has taken his dream time into his waking world in a desperate effort to compartmentalize his depression into the incarnation of the tape performance artist. He is living the dream.
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Francejackal
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« Reply #9 on: September 17, 2013, 10:54:50 PM »

I don't know. The writing was engaging, certainly, and the dream monologues were a fascinating insight,
given the revelations at the end. However, despite my overall praise for the story it fell rather flat for me.
I was disappointed with the ultimate mundanity of it (horrific as it was). I thought the hints at a secondary
personality were perhaps the setup for a bait & switch. It comes down to a matter of taste for me, and I'm
afraid that mental illness in horror literature is a cop-out in my opinion. I mean no disrespect to Mr. Ligotti of
course, I think he is a fine writer.
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #10 on: September 18, 2013, 11:37:47 AM »

I'm curious about the logistics of it - I know *nothing* about personality disorders, so please take the following with that in mind --

Could the secondary artist personality be organised enough to ask the art dealer to lie to the protagonist about the origin of the tapes? The secondary personality IS the artist, right? So it wouldn't think to ask her to say that the tapes were delivered by a white-bearded older man, because the secondary personality (as far as it knew) WAS the white-bearded older man...?

I mean, the twist in the story wouldn't have worked otherwise so I understand that it's a necessary subterfuge. Is there some sort of underlying subconscious logic in these situations where the primary/secondary/tertiary etc. personalities "collaborate" with eachother to keep whichever personality is in the ascendancy unaware of the true nature of the situation?
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Scattercat
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« Reply #11 on: September 19, 2013, 12:54:40 AM »

@Cheshire

In what literature there is on multiple personality disorder (which is a pretty contentious topic in itself), some of the subordinate personalities do display knowledge of the other personalities and the "primary" personality, even to the extent of plotting against them.  As with many psychiatric disorders, it's really hard to say much for certain, though.

---

As for the story, I enjoyed it a lot.  The repetitive, rhythmic phrasing reminded me a lot of "Red Rubber Gloves." 

I have to say that I was mildly surprised that the multiple personality was a surprise.  Given the absence of backstory hooks, that was pretty much the only option, and the little rant about reading and hearing it in his voice cemented it as the ending early on.  The narrator's manner of speech made me irritated and uncomfortable; it was a pitch-perfect rendition of how actual mentally ill people talk, repetition and odd derailings and all.  (I have to talk to actual mentally ill people periodically due to the nature of my day job.  It's rarely a pleasant experience, but I do have a really solid handle on what anxiety, depression, and schizoprenia sound like nowadays.)

It was a good story, though as ever Alasdair's post-text analysis added interesting depths and additional layers that made it better.  In particular, Al really highlighted Dala in an intriguing way.
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Cheshire_Snark
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« Reply #12 on: September 19, 2013, 04:23:09 AM »

Cool, thanks very much  Smiley
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Moritz
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« Reply #13 on: September 19, 2013, 04:24:25 AM »

This was my introduction to Thomas Ligotti's work, and I am glad that Pseudopod finally featured him because his short stories have often been recommended to me but I never picked them up, even though I have a copy of Nightmare Factory on my bookshelf!

I liked the writing, but the final twist was a bit obvious and mundane. I think a reason might be that the 1990s and 2000s have saturated us with such stories, I guess when it was written it would have felt more genuine.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #14 on: October 09, 2013, 09:28:49 AM »

The twist should've been obvious to me.  Usually that particular twist is, ever since I saw Fight Club.  But somehow I didn't get it ahead of time.  Looking back, I'm not sure why, but there it is.

I thought it had a rather slow build and the recordings didn't interest me all that much directly, but the odd obsession about them by the main character is what I found interesting.  I didn't understand his obsession with them at all but in this case that oddness of perspective was the hook for me, and kept me interested enough to the end.  I felt his pain when he realized he couldn't get the copy of the Bungalow House again, I felt it in the depths of my geeky heart as if one of my favorite books were totally out of print and unfindable, or something like that.
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SonofSpermcube
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« Reply #15 on: October 10, 2013, 03:52:53 AM »

Re: seeing it coming:

I started to suspect this might be the twist when the narrator starts talking about the voice becoming like/unlike his own.  I was pretty sure when the narrator became interested in the identity of the artist, and certain at the meeting in the library.
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Sir Postsalot
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« Reply #16 on: October 10, 2013, 08:49:42 AM »

I started to suspect this might be the twist when the narrator starts talking about the voice becoming like/unlike his own. 

I probably should've started to suspect there, but that explanation totally made intuitive sense to me, so it just melded.
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Gary
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« Reply #17 on: October 21, 2013, 07:59:32 PM »

I did not care for the repetitive way the author kept repeating insignificant descriptions in a repetitive manor over and over ... repeatedly. His repetition of certain words or descriptions, which he did repeatedly, over and over, just became annoying to me. In fact I think I only kept listening to see if the repetition of the same phrases, again and again, repeatedly, over and over would cause me to snap and go on a murderous rampage.
It did not.
Yet.

Also it was clear to me early on in the story, as the author was repeating insignificant details over and over, that our main character was crazy and was also the guy leaving the tapes. So obvious in fact that I didn't even realize it was supposed to be a "twist ending " until I read it here.

It would be fair to say that this story was not my favorite.
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Fenrix
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« Reply #18 on: December 27, 2013, 11:33:17 AM »

Thanks to PsuedoPod for buying this and Mr. Ligotti for selling it. And thank you, Mr. Ligotti for stopping by to say hello. The moniker of the Yellow Jester is all the more prescient with the recent 'casting of The Yellow Sign, as if you foresaw and heralded the coming of the King in Yellow.

I'm not sure how I missed responding to this one before, but I guess it's time to fix that. I really dug this story. I couldn't tell you if I saw the twist coming or not, but the lack of recollection about that leads me to believe that my enjoyment was not diminished by the outcome - the journey was the reward. I loved the meta-layers this story presents with the audio tapes as performance art and as stalking. I found this story perfectly suited for an audio adaptation. I also really enjoyed the weird museum/art gallery and the art displays. Why are dismembered doll heads so creepy?

I also recently picked up an anthology called Poe's Children. While I think most of my problems with the anthology are related to disliking Straub as an editor, there are some great stories that make this worth picking up. "Notes on the Writing of Horror: A Story" is a great overview of the short form for horror scholars, and can be treated like a companion piece to things like Lovecraft's Supernatural Horror in Literature. In addition, it's a delightful mindscrew of a story that piles the layers on. All the writer types around these parts would be well served to grab a copy of this. It's available in both print and audio, although I would recommend grabbing a copy of "Songs of a Dead Dreamer" if you're going for a print version.



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