Book Review 226 // The Greater Festival of Masks by Thomas Ligotti

Continuing my dive into modern horror authors with "The Greater Festival of Masks" by Thomas Ligotti (1985). There is not a lot of info on this title out there. Whether it is due to it being a short story or just found within other titles is still being determined. It is a short piece that I found within Darkness: Two Decades of Modern Horror (Amazon link).

I had never read a Thomas Ligotti title before or even heard of the name. So I was going in blind with this story. The title itself was a game of two halves. The rich descriptions, the location and the setting, were all unique and enjoyable. But I quickly became lost in the plot. Unsure if we were experiencing real life or dreamscape. I fully understand this is maybe the point of the title, but it was jarring.

We join a traveller called Noss, who is in a somewhat out-of-place city in the throws of a festival. The festival's theme involves wearing masks, and soon the lead finds himself in a crowded and rather creepy shop selling carnival masks. At this point, I start to lose the plot's focus. Noss is left in charge of the shop he has just entered (weird how this is so easily accepted), and while being tempted to wear a mask, he is also lured into the shop's backyard, where we get to experience some of the festivals.

From what I understand, people wear two masks throughout the celebration. The first mask causes your features to be smoothed out, while the second mask creates a new face. It fits the idea of changing your outside to match the world around you while your true character remains hidden. This idea of fakeness and hiding away spreads as we realize that even the buildings are fake, with doors leading nowhere, balconies with no access, and stairways that connect to nothing. Everything seems to want to mimic something else.

I was left confused and I may need to read other works of Ligotti to understand this one more. But I am also getting strong King in Yellow vibes. The faceless fears, masks and a dream-like city etc. My ultimate enjoyment of this title comes from my fear of Masks. I have always enjoyed the horrors of Halloween, Friday the 13th and Texas Chainsaw Massacre due to the faceless horrors of the killers, so the idea of a city full of masked people creeps me out!

What are your thoughts? Have you read a Ligotti tale?

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