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The Land of Laughs (1980)

by Jonathan Carroll

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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1,3234410,625 (3.9)95
Have you ever loved a magical book above all others? Have you ever wished the magic were real? Welcome to The Land of Laughs. A novel about how terrifying that would be. Schoolteacher Thomas Abbey, unsure son of a film star, doesn't know who he is or what he wants--in life, in love, or in his relationship with the strange and intense Saxony Gardner. What he knows is that in his whole life nothing has touched him so deeply as the novels of Marshall France, a reclusive author of fabulous children's tales who died at forty-four. Now Thomas and Saxony have come to France's hometown, the dreamy Midwestern town of Galen, Missouri, to write France's biography. Warned in advance that France's family may oppose them, they're surprised to find France's daughter warmly welcoming instead. But slowly they begin to see that something fantastic and horrible is happening. The magic of Marshall France has extended far beyond the printed page...leaving them with a terrifying task to undertake.… (more)
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» See also 95 mentions

Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work. - Flaubert
......
The plates hated the silver, who in turn hated the glasses. They sang cruel songs at each other. Ping. Clank. Tink. This kind of meanness three times a day. - Peach Shadows by Marshall France
......
"Reading a book, for me at least, is like traveling in someone else's world. If it's a good book, then you feel comfortable and yet anxious to see what's going to happen to you there, what'll be around the next corner. But if it's a lousy book, then it's like going through Secaucus, New Jersey--it smells and you wish you weren't there, but since you've started the trip, you roll up the windows and breathe through your mouth until you're done."
-Thomas Abbey, The Land of Laughs, Jonathan Carroll


This is a book by a book lover for book lovers. It is a story wrapped in the love of story, winding its way through broken promises real and imagined between fathers and mothers and grown children and lovers and husbands and wives, finally between the creator and creation. The story itself is mostly a hanger for these many explorations, but I didn't mind that. I loved Thomas' constant reminiscing of his parents, his broken, beautiful relationship with his father. I loved, loved, loved Saxony Gardner. (Honestly it hurt some that Thomas did not commit to her as I did, but this is his weakness and cowardice and inability to see what is in front of his face; it is an integral part of his character - I was very much reminded of Updike's hated Rabbit in places, but Thomas is much smarter and more self aware in his loathsome moments.) I loved that Carroll does not spare his characters their own ugliness.

Honestly, my only complaint is the abruptness of the ending. Why do you wait until the final pages to do the most interesting thing you will do in the entire book?!? Otherwise, I honestly loved the ending, and I would happily read a sequel that provides the rest of this book. (But then, that relationship in particular was the one I loved and always wanted more of, so your mileage may vary.)

I enjoyed this and will be continuing on to the rest of Carroll's works; trying to decide now between [b:Voice of Our Shadow|42147|Voice of Our Shadow|Jonathan Carroll|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1386925378s/42147.jpg|968926] and [b:Bones of the Moon|42146|Bones of the Moon (Answered Prayers, #1)|Jonathan Carroll|https://d.gr-assets.com/books/1391047473s/42146.jpg|968918].

**Original review 9/8/15, edited 11/18/15 as I am going to add my favorite foreign cover to all of my Jonathan Carroll reviews from here on out.**
This time it's the Polish cover:

( )
  amyotheramy | May 11, 2021 |
When I start dreading starting a book, it's time to give up on it. Half way through and it was still wandering. And I don't like the main character. He's a jerk. ( )
  KittyCunningham | Apr 26, 2021 |
Thomas Abbey (son of the famous actor Stephen Abbey) and his “colleague” Saxony visit the town of Galen, Missouri, to get information for a biography of their late but beloved children’s book author, Marshall Frank. The information about Frank that Thomas gets from publisher David Louis is much different in a bizarre sort of way from the information gleaned from Saxony’s previous research and from what both learn from visiting the author’s surviving daughter Anna.

Carroll’s style of writing never ceases to amaze me. This book is intelligent, subtle, and yet easy to read. The author’s sardonic sense of humor makes reading this tale so much fun. I love the sense of intrigue, of not knowing what surprise the next page will bring, since Carroll’s writing often involves surreal situations. Keenly perceptive of how people react to one another, the author displays a good command of general psychology. So many of the author’s thoughts are noteworthy that it’s a must to savor this book slowly. Since I love to read, and this book is about an author and books, my enjoyment of the subject matter was even more enhanced. This one’s a keeper.

SPOILER--> The book becomes weird when the bull terrier Nails talks to Thomas one night and says “The fur. It is. Breathe through the fur.” It turns out that the dogs were all once people and that all of the dogs and people in the town of Galen’s lives were scripted by what Marshall wrote. This starts fading after Marshall dies, but the initial fading of fate reverses when Thomas Abbey begins writing Marshall’s biography. How ingenious! How weird! ( )
  SqueakyChu | Jan 16, 2021 |
Fanboy meets fangirl
he lets her do the grunt work
lord knows she can't cook. ( )
  Eggpants | Jun 25, 2020 |
56 points/100 (3 stars/5)

Thomas Abbey, the son of a famous actor, fell in love with a book and an author when he was young. He has spent his entire life worshipping this man who died years ago. Now, he is looking to write Marshall France's biography. The only problem is, he has to get his daughter, Anna's, approval first. What he finds when he gets to Galen, Missouri is not quite what he expected.

This is a cross between Stranger than Fiction and The Fault in Our Stars without the cancer, with some Pleasantville thrown in for good measure. It was an interesting concept, and I think I would have enjoyed it more had I been a different person.

This book took a while to start. The books is broken up into three parts. The first part of the book, 17%, was all setup, and they hadn't even left to go to the town they spend most of the book in, yet. Most of it was Thomas talking about his father issues, the same father issues that come up all book again and again. Once they get to town, that is when the book feels like it starts, which isn't until about 20% through. Then it starts to become a bit more interesting, as hints that "something isn't quite right in Pleasantville" is happening.

That said, this is very light on the fantasy in The Land of Laughs. Until 40%, there was still only hints that not everything was right in Galen. Things didn't get fully explained until nearly 70% of the book. Even when things are explained, it still isn't very fantasy heavy. When things are explained, he goes into book writing mode. The little hints that are dropped do make it pretty interesting, though. It is like if Pleasantville was more strictly fantasy than it already is. That town is full on crazy when you're looking at it without the knowledge to back up their craziness.

The whole point of The Land of Laughs is that Thomas is writing a biography on Marshall France. Only, he writes it. By hand. Not on a computer. This is why I don't read old stuff. That is unfathomable to me. Can you imagine writing a whole book by hand? I sure can't! I don't care how much you're in love with your weird artsy pens, Thomas, personal computers existed in 1980! I can get past the no cell phones thing, most of the time. But a life without a computer really isn't worth living, now is it?

There is a lot of time in this book spent on Thomas' cheating. He has the girl he maybe loves, Saxony, who helps him this entire way. He met her in the beginning and he shares all the same interests and desires as him. She helps him, but she is always just a side character, she barely drives the plot at all. Then there is the author's daughter, Anna, who is basically his obsession in flesh he could actually love, instead of the author himself. He is attracted to her, and can't say no to her. And then a solid portion of the plot is dedicated to this tryst and Saxony's finding out, and her anger and his avoidance of the conflict.

Personally, I understand the ending to the book as much as I understand the book itself. I understood the actual events, but the meaning behind them was lost on me. I think you need a different set of life experiences than I had to enjoy this one. The meaning behind the actions in this book is just completely lost on me, and I couldn't even begin to tell you where they lost me. Cory Doctorow's Someone Comes to Town, Someone Leaves Town spoke to me, I understood the symbolism behind some of the things. This.. I just didn't get. And, I'm okay with that. Not every book speaks to every reader.

I thought I would enjoy this book more than I did. I like the idea of a book being reality, otherwise I wouldn't read what I read. I just couldn't get into it as much as I had hoped. I need a harder fantasy series, I believe, and this was much more literary in nature.

Check this out if:

* you want a really surreal world

* you like Stranger Than Fiction or Pleasantville (probably not The Fault in Your Stars so much)

* you want a story that unfolds from the mundane to the magical slowly to pack a punch at the end

Don't bother if:

* you need a harder fantasy story to keep you interested

* you despise cheating in any form

* not knowing things drives you insane

For more of my reviews, check out keikii eats books. ( )
  keikii | Jan 23, 2020 |
Showing 1-5 of 44 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (18 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jonathan Carrollprimary authorall editionscalculated
Arrasmith,PatrickCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Aula, NikoCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Ballerini, EdoardoNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Brehm, Hans-JörgIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Carroll, RyderCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hermstein, RudolfTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lopes, MichelleIllustratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Marsh, JamesCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Mattingly, David B.Cover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Paananen, JariCover artistsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Preis, ThomasTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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Epigraph
Be regular and orderly in your life like a bourgeois, so that you may be violent and original in your work.
-Flaubert
Dedication
For June, who is the best of all New Faces, and for Beverly —The Queen of All
First words
"Look, Thomas, I know you've probably been asked this question a million times before, but what was it really like to be Stephen Abbey's -"
Quotations
The Land of Laughs was lit by eyes that saw the lights that no one's seen.
Reading a book, for me at least, is like traveling in someone else’s world. If it’s a good book, then you feel comfortable and yet anxious to see what’s going to happen to you there, what’ll be around the next corner. But if it’s a lousy book, then it’s like going through Secaucus, New Jersey--it smells and you wish you weren’t there, but since you started the trip, you roll up the windows and breathe through your mouth until you’re done.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Have you ever loved a magical book above all others? Have you ever wished the magic were real? Welcome to The Land of Laughs. A novel about how terrifying that would be. Schoolteacher Thomas Abbey, unsure son of a film star, doesn't know who he is or what he wants--in life, in love, or in his relationship with the strange and intense Saxony Gardner. What he knows is that in his whole life nothing has touched him so deeply as the novels of Marshall France, a reclusive author of fabulous children's tales who died at forty-four. Now Thomas and Saxony have come to France's hometown, the dreamy Midwestern town of Galen, Missouri, to write France's biography. Warned in advance that France's family may oppose them, they're surprised to find France's daughter warmly welcoming instead. But slowly they begin to see that something fantastic and horrible is happening. The magic of Marshall France has extended far beyond the printed page...leaving them with a terrifying task to undertake.

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