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The Land of Laughs Paperback – February 10, 2001

4.2 out of 5 stars 78 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Thomas Abbey is a man stuck in a rut. An English teacher in a small Connecticut prep school, Abbey is in a crisis. His career is unfulfilling, he has no social or love life to speak of, and he cannot break out of the shadow of his famous father, the actor Stephen Abbey. To kick-start his life, he takes a sabbatical to work on a biography of his favorite writer, Marshall France. France's books were the only thing that kept Abbey sane during his childhood, and though he was renowned for his lyrical and imaginative children's books, nearly nothing was known about the writer's life.

Although Abbey has been warned that France's daughter Anna has blocked all previous attempts at her father's biography, he and Saxony Garder--an intense woman also obsessed with France's life--head to Galen, Missouri, with high hopes of breaking down Anna's resistance. They are surprised to find Anna the soul of small-town hospitality and quite excited about Abbey's proposal--even eager to get the project finished as soon as possible. Even stranger than Anna's behavior is the town of Galen itself. On the surface, all is as a small midwestern town should be. But the people of the town seem to know what their future holds--freak accidents and all--down to the hour and are as eager for Abbey to finish the biography as Anna is.

As far as plot goes, The Land of Laughs doesn't break any new ground--it is a riff on a very old literary theme--and the more interesting issues the story raises--fate, free will, and the creative power of the written word--receive only a glancing blow as the story careens to its somewhat unsatisfying Gothic ending. That said, Carroll does show a good ear for dialogue and a deft hand at creating complex characters and quietly ominous moods. And the story--hoary plot line and all--immediately grabs you and doesn't let go. If you already know Jonathan Carroll from his other novels, you will want to add this reissue of his first novel to your library. And if you haven't yet been introduced to this inventive author, The Land of Laughs is the perfect place to begin. --Perry M. Atterberry


“Jonathan Carroll is a cult waiting to happen.” ―Pat Conroy

The Land of Laughs is a book for anyone who has ever believed that a favorite book could be a safe place to go when things get hard.” ―Neil Gaiman

“I envy anyone who has yet to enjoy the sexy, eerie, and addictive novels of Jonathan Carroll. They are delicious treats--with devilish tricks inside them.” ―The Washington Post

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Product Details

  • Paperback: 256 pages
  • Publisher: TOR; 1st edition (February 10, 2001)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0312873115
  • ISBN-13: 978-0312873110
  • Product Dimensions: 5.5 x 0.6 x 8.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 13.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (78 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #435,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Paperback
At long last, Jonathan Carroll's masterpiece, THE LAND OF LAUGHS is returning to print. This should be cause for celebration among horror/dark fantasy readers, especially those who haven't yet had the pleasure of reading this classic.
As a previous reviewer stated, the basic plot of THE LAND OF LAUGHS (someone finding out the so-called "fantasy" world of a noted children's book author is real...and deadly) has been well used since this novel was published. But Carroll's remains the best. Most people, upon growing up, seem to forget how truly dark many of those children's fantasy stories were. But Carroll never forgot, which is perhaps what makes THE LAND OF LAUGHS so successful.
This is a "must read" for any fan of horror, fantasy or just plain ole good fiction. And for similar reads, check out William Browning Spencer's ZOD WALLOP and STRANGEWOOD by Christopher Golden.
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Format: Paperback
I confess outright to being a Carroll devotee - I've even collected all his books and stories and have corresponded with him "live" by email. Many Carroll fans have complained that his early books are impossible to find - I couldn't bare to spend over $200 for his first book, The Land of Laughs, so I was relieved when TOR decided to reissue it in paper back. Oddly enough, that means that I had read all of his books already except this one, his first. The good news is, it's fantastic. In fact, it's so good I don't know how he ever tried again. Many of the familiar Carroll traits are here: a few pit bulls, a small town, a blurred division between reality and fantasy, a wild cast of characters and a great plot. Some readers complain that his endings aren't as good as his beginnings, but this book is a masterpiece in that regard. I loved the plot in this book as well: a "drop out" English teacher with a famous father decides to leave his stodgy prep school and write a biography of Marshall France, his favorite children's author. Naturally Marshall created a fantasy world of characters which gives our narrator a chance to immerse himself in a town with a very strange history. Overall, I think it's the most perfectly conceived of all Carroll's books - the ending is perfect too. If you've never read anything by Carroll, buy the paperback of this one and read it - then follow your addiction by reading all his other great books too. His books are so mind-blowing that I can almost guarantee that you'll raise your IQ a few points just by trying to follow the events!
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Format: Paperback
Ok, firstly there isn't a Jonathan Carroll book that isn't good. And I mean that. No, I'm not his publisist, and no, I don't run the Jonathan Carroll web site. I am just a 23 year old avid reader, that once I read one of his books ('The Marriage of Sticks'), I had to go out, and buy all of them, by whatever means neccesary. The fact that people on average haven't heard of him, is to me incomprehendable. He is going to go down in history of one of this centurys greatest writers. The Land Of Laughs, Jonathans first novel, is a story that begins in grounded reality, and slowly slides into the realm of fantasy, just as Alice fell through the looking glass, you will find yourself on a similar journey. If you like books that treat you with respect as a reader, and understand that we the reader like to be taken somewhere new, and origional, then buy this book. If you don't like it, you won't like any other of his novels, If you do like it, get ready to spend hours on e-bay tracking them down. Oh and by the way, when you do start bidding, look out for me, I'll be right behind you. If you are wondering why I'm not giving you a plot rundown, it is because Amazon quite cleverly put it at the top of this page, and I'm not into regurgitation. If you like this book, check out Graham Joyce 'Dreamside', and a writer called China Mieville (could be spelt wrong), he wrote 'Perdido Street Station'. Happy reading.
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Format: Paperback
Thomas Abbey leads an undistinguished, unsatisfying existence. He teaches English at a boy's prep school, but is chiefly known as the son of a glamorous 1940's film actor. He bitterly resents this constant association but feels unable to escape it. For his entire life he's lived in the shadow of his late father and their conflicted relationship. When he was a child, his greatest solace was found in the fanciful books of Marshall France, a reclusive writer who died at forty-four. One day, in an antiquarian bookshop, the doleful teacher meets an eccentric woman, Saxony Gardner, who is equally obsessed with France and together they travel to the writer's adopted hometown in Missouri to start work on a France biography. But almost nothing in the sleepy town of Galen is what it seems and slowly their idyllic existence turns into an inescapable nightmare.

Like Neil Gaiman , I am a huge fan of Jonathan Carroll, but of all his works, this novel has particular resonance for me. It suggests that our lives, our selves, even, to a great extent, our world, are largely products of our influence on them. That we are the authors of our own story; we collaborate with our histories to create ourselves and thus the past is as mutable as our relationship with it. The book is chock full of symbolism that deftly illustrates its twin themes of self-invention (e.g., Abbey is a collector of masks) and self-determination (e.g., his lover, Saxony, a maker of elaborate marionettes).

This is a vigorous, engaging read told in a naturalistic, matter-of-fact style that belies the tension and horror lurking just beneath the surface. The characters are well-fleshed out and human with relatable, believable motivations. And despite a shocking climax, at least the denouement allows Thomas Abbey to finally make peace with his past and even find ways to make use of it.
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