First of all, thanks so much for an(other) excellent podcast! What a great opportunity to read some weird fiction (almost all of which has been new to me so far) and then listen to some really intriguing and thought-provoking discussion!
I had some thoughts on what I think is an interesting point of comparison between The Frolic and The Insanity of Jones. In both stories we are dealing with a character who appears, from our external perspective, to be 'insane', and in both cases this 'insanity' leads to murder. In both stories the character in question believes they have access to or come from a realm outside/beyond our own which either gives them a higher moral vantage point (ability to dispense justice/forgiveness in The Insanity of Jones) or a completely different set of morals entirely (humans as inferior 'playthings' in The Frolic). In both cases, the characters come across as pretty much entirely unsympathetic.
But there is one major difference between the stories, which affects both how they are told and how we perceive them: The Insanity of Jones is told from the perspective of the 'insane' (or 'enlightened'?), while The Frolic is told from the perspective of the 'sane' (or 'ignorant'). The effect of this is not what I would have expected going in though.
With The Frolic, we only ever see the 'other world' as what Dr Munck tells his wife of his conversations with John Doe, so we have no clue as to what's really going on in Doe's mind. Is he really a creature from beyond, or is he just crazy?
With The Insanity of Jones, we are allowed to perceive the world as Jones himself perceives it. Reality is a boring sham, while the world beyond is wondrous (reflecting more the dreamscapes of Lovecraft and Howard than the 'underworld' Doe claims to have come from). We can ask a similar question though: has Jones really been granted some kind of cosmic enlightenment, or is he delusional?
My own answer to these questions is surprising. I think Doe potentially is a creature from beyond, while Jones is probably delusional. There are enough clues scattered through The Frolic to just that there is something outre about Doe: he appears as if from nowhere and certainly seems to know things he shouldn't (although there are ways he could have learned these things if we read beyond just Dr Munck's account in the text). On the other hand, despite seeing things from Jones's perspective, his 'enlightenment' is more easily dismissed. We are the people noticing him talking to himself in the restaurant. We are the office workers terrified that our colleague has killed our manager. The way in which he himself dismisses those who believe in clairvoyance and other supernatural activities appears as supreme arrogance (even if we share his opinion about these things).
Personally, I think this is exactly what the authors intended (though I might be wrong about Jones here). We are supposed to believe there is something not quite right about Doe, whether or not we fully buy in to what he claims. We are also supposed to believe that Jones is insane, even if his insanity is founded on ideas that not all sane people would dismiss out of hand (reincarnation, cosmic justice).
But this is partly based on the way the authors write the stories. Ligotti is obviously inspired by earlier weird tales, and the informed reader can make the connection to Lovecraft's or Howard's dreamscapes. Because this kind of story has been told before (set mostly or entirely within the 'other world') and fleshed out by previous authors, Ligotti himself only needs to provide us with the barest details, and we don't need to see the 'other world' from the perspective of the 'dreamer' to believe it. I'm not accusing Ligotti of laziness here - I think it's a great metatextual storytelling technique that actually adds another dark layer to those earlier stories.
Blackwood, on the other hand, does not really flesh out Jones's enlightenment enough for it be believable in comparison to the 'real world' perspective - we as the reader can still too easily see Jones's ideas about reincarnation and cosmic justice as a result of the (petty) injustices he has suffered in the real world. He hates his boss, so his boss becomes a sixteenth-century torturer, with Jones as the sixteenth-century tortured; his dead colleague becomes a guide in his 'enlightenment' (did Jones really have a good relationship with him five years ago, or is he creating that post facto?). Maybe I'm being too generous to Blackwood here, because as I said, this is what I think he intended. If he meant for Jones's situation to be more ambiguous then he didn't do that great a job, at least for me.
Anyway, I don't really have any conclusions about all this, but I'd be interested to know what other people think.