Thursday, January 30, 2014

True Detective's Nic Pizzolatto on Ligotti

As an encore to my earlier interview with the creator/write of HBO's True Detective, Nic Pizzolatto once again stops by The Arkham Digest to discuss the influence of Thomas Ligotti, which was something some readers felt was left out from the initial interview.

Some readers seem surprised that you didn't mention Ligotti as a direct influence on Cohle, and some were of the opinion you were simply being coy about it. Are you a reader of Ligotti? How influential has his writing been on not only Cohle, but on the series as a whole?

Nic: The work and vision of Thomas Ligotti was very influential for imagining Cohle's overall worldview. I've tried to avoid discussion of Cohle's philosophies because the truth is, the audience cannot yet see the totality of Cohle's character or the story being told. His relationship to the philosophies he espouses in the first three episodes don't encapsulate the entirety of his character. For instance, Cohle can't be a nihilist-- he cares too much; he's too passionate; he yearns too much (so, in his way, he deludes himself as much as Marty does). Who he ultimately is, is not yet clear. Right now, I hope its difficult to tell whose side the writer is on, and I think that's the way it should be. And this might be paranoid, but this early on in the run, I really didn't want people accusing us of pushing some antinatalist or nihilistic agenda: the show's true agenda, and its relationship to those philosophies, won't be clear until the 8th episode finishes. At which point, if anybody still cared, I was hoping to get to discuss these things.  Anyhow: there was a clear line to me from Chambers to Lovecraft to Ligotti, and their fictional visions of cosmic despair were articulating the same things as certain nihilist and pessimist philosophers, but with more poetry and art and vision. And then I found that this level of bleakness went arm-in-arm with the genre of noir, and that aspects of the weird fiction I loved could be used to puncture and punctuate aspects of the noir genre that I loved. I mean, what could be harder, more unforgivingly noir than Thomas Ligotti's vision of what the human race is? But I suppose I've been overly wary of having people define Cohle solely based on the philosophy he espouses in the first three episodes, because the truth is that the whole of his character and his journey is much more complex than that. Having said that, if this leads people to discover and explore Ligotti's work, then I'll be very happy. And for the record; I don't personally share those philosophies, but one of the reasons Ligotti is an important literary writer is because it's important for us to confront the potential of the true abyss, its possibility, and I can't really think of a contemporary writer who can define that abyss as well as Ligotti.

Art by Sergiy Krykun


  1. Brilliant!

    I am so thrilled by this clarification! Thomas Ligotti on the mainstream map! Who'd have thunk?

    Mr. Pizzolatto -- have you ever looked a Ligotti co-penned screenplay called CRAMPTON. Because you should! Season 3 of TD?

  2. Film noir infused with Ligottian philosophy. This is too good to be true.

  3. I love the show so far and to find out the parallels I thought I drew independently were intentional is kind of blowing my mind. Ligotti is not exactly a well-known writer! I've never seen a character like Rust on TV before, certainly not as a protagonist, and I can't wait to see how things play out. Great writing, great direction, and great acting.

  4. I love the show to date and to seek out out the parallels i believed I player severally were intentional is reasonably processing my mind.

  5. Read this abstract with great interest, thanks! The show's really good so far and it's nice to know Coehle's personality has more to it than what we've learnt.
    PS: could you credit the drawing? It happens to be mine.