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Sleeping in Flame Paperback – September 9, 2004

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

In this farfetched story of reincarnation among the beautiful people, actor Walker Easterling, living in Vienna with sculptor/ex-model Maris York, stumbles upon traces of his previous lives. In Los Angeles to make a horror flick, Westerling undergoes a Castaneda-like training with Venasque, a shaman. He discovers that in one former lifetime he was the son of a cruel, overpossessive German midget with magical powers who pushed him out a window to his death. When Maris conceives, Walker, who was raised as an orphan in Atlanta, must resolve the conflicts of his past lives, or lose his fiancee and their unborn child. Dreams, prophetic visions and the sighting of a purple sea serpent propel his quest, in which the Rumpelstiltskin tale of the Brothers Grimm figures prominently. In what begins as a highly literate parapsychological puzzler, Carroll ( Bones of the Moon ) shifts gears into fantasy and fairy tale, with results that may not be wholly satisfactory to fans of any one genre.
Copyright 1989 Reed Business Information, Inc. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


Jonathan Carroll has the magic. He'll lend you his eyes; and you will never see the world in quite the same way ever again. (Neil Gaiman)

Jonathan Carroll is a master of sunlit surrealism. (Jonathan Lethem)
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Orb Books; Reprint edition (October 1, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0765311860
  • ISBN-13: 978-0765311863
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.7 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 10.6 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (42 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,061,159 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

4.5 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

20 of 20 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Osier on October 1, 1998
Format: Paperback
It's one of the great publishing mysteries why Jonathan Carroll isn't among the most popular novelists in the world. I've just scanned Amazon for the availability of his novels, only to find that most of them are out of print. Carroll is a most uncommon writer: his stories are deep, brooding, and grotesque, and yet are told with an easy-going charm that makes them almost impossible to put down. "Sleeping in Flame" adheres to the common Carroll formula: draw the reader in with an engaging opening conflict, bring on the cast of charismatic eccentrics, weave in a convincing and involving romance, and then, just as the readers are lulled by all of this, drop the floor out from under them and plunge them into a world of chilling, grotesque fantasy. I'm not giving anything away when I say that "Sleeping in Flame" is a rather unique spin on the story of Rumpelstilskin. How he introduces the elements of that story, and where he takes it, are so original and fascinating, you'll never think of Rumpelstilskin the same way again. I recommend this book, but I think you'd be better served by telling Amazon to hunt down copies of "Child Across the Sky" or "Land of Laughs," his two greatest novels. My copies are British editions -- I have no idea whether they even had US versions. Even though Carroll is from the US (his dad was the co-screenwriter for "The Hustler") he lives in Vienna and his audience is mostly European.
If your problem with American fiction is that it's too mundane and convential (which it is, oppressively so), or that the novelists with the greatest imaginations are ensnared by genre formulas (which they are), Jonathan Carroll is the answer to your prayers. His wild imagination, compelling characters, and his great narrative voice are unique, and he deserves a huge audience.
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19 of 19 people found the following review helpful By Jessica ( on October 27, 1999
Format: Paperback
This is one of the most original, unusual, eccentric, competent books I have ever read. It's so unusual and different that one almost can't believe that the book comes out as well put-together and nicely crafted as it does. The novel succeeds at being extremely odd while reading like mainstream fiction. How does Carroll do it?
It's really too bad that Carroll's stuff is so hard to find; I searched for this book for six years before finding it, believe it or not. Carroll has such an individual voice, is so original, that all of his stuff should be readily available.
The only problems I have with this book are the plot's leapfrogs from one style of novel to another; when I read the book, I felt like I was reading several stories at once. While it is usually good to have different themes running together at once, somehow this novel didn't come off as one book with many themes, or even many books with their own themes, but as all kinds of authors and ideas taking hold of the novel at different times. You've got a little Richard Bach there for a while, then some brothers Grimm, then some Tanith Lee, all with a Milan Kundera-type voice. Very strange. Plus, the ending is so abrupt, I found myself wondering if perhaps I'd lost a page or two.
However, the book is well-written enough and entertaining enough and literary enough to go beyond its bizarre literary flightiness, and what comes out is a masterful, wonderful, classic novel. I highly recommend it.
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11 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Peggy Vincent on September 20, 2003
Format: Paperback
Not your usual run-of-the-mill novel, Sleeping in Flame will win your heart with its delightful blend of romance and humor. But then, people who at first glance seem strikingly glamorous turn...well, weird. This book and its author have the potential of developing a cult following. It begins with Walker, a screenwriter living in Vienna, meeting Maris, a model on the run from a potentially violent lover. The two fall in love, and then author Carroll begins leading us and them down bizarre and frightening paths - all the while making sure we're laughing at every twist in the path.
Don't think you've got the tone of this novel figured out; the author's about to pull the rug out from under you. But you'll willingly suspend belief and go along for the magic carpet ride, I betcha.
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6 of 6 people found the following review helpful By Zentao on March 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
The story is similar in theme and style to another of the crazy wisdom writers out there today: Haruki Murakami. Carroll links some suburban fantasy with some interesting Eastern ideas about reincarnation and the good old Brothers Grimm in a manner somewhat related to Philip K. Dick and Kurt Vonnegut.
The story gradually unfolds to reveal the core issues we all cringe from: fate and love. The main character gradually comes to terms with his own rather interesting history while trying to keep his magical relationship with his newly-discovered love. Along the way he encounters a very interesting range of characters from Hollywood movie moguls to a Jewish shaman who lives in the suburbs.
Then there is the setting: that magical city of Vienna. Carroll has a lot of fun with his American-in-Europe character and there are some very humourous segments included in the tale. Overall Murakami has done a slightly better job from a stylistic viewpoint but I can't deny that Carrol's book was a lot of fun.
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16 of 20 people found the following review helpful By J. Fuchs VINE VOICE on February 12, 2007
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Okay, clearly I'm in the minority here. I purchased this book because so many people put it on their list of best nontraditional fantasy novels. This is not, however a book in the fantasy genre. It falls more in the tradition of books like The Alchemist, that is to say, books of the "the magic is within you" type of spirtualality. Unlike The Alchemist, however, the story takes forever to unfold, and in order to even get to the old, Jewish shaman who likes to watch Miami Vice on TV, you first have to read through 100 pages of nothing. The narrator's romantic interest is a supermodel whom we are supposed to like because she's a slob and drives a car without a heater. Or as the author puts it: "she drove the way she spoke: nervously, a little too fast, but clearly in control." If that kind of writing appeals to you, perhaps you will like this book. But nothing happens until almost page 100 and by that point I was bored to death. The book gets two stars simply because the author can write well. Unfortunately, to me, he didn't choose anything to write well about. If you like Vienna, you might like this book as Carroll describes the city in as much loving detail as he describes the narrator's supermodel girlfriend. But the narrative about the city is just as monotonous as everything else -- it feels like its only in there to prove that Carroll speaks German and has spent a lot of time in Vienna. If you like Carlos Castaneda, Paolo Coehlo or were one of the many who fell in love with Jonathan Livingston Seagull, maybe you'll like this book -- I'm not aiming this review at you, it just isn't my cup of tea. I'm posting so that people who dislike this kind of material will know that this isn't for them.
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