Review: The Land of Laughs

The Land of Laughs
The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll
My rating: 3 of 5 stars

A friend recommended this cult classic to me, and I read it without reading anything regarding the plot. I’m glad. This book takes some amazing, creative turns, even if as a whole I didn’t quite fall in love with it.

An English teacher obsessed with the work of children’s book author Marshall France journeys to that author’s hometown to unearth details for a biography. The narrative tone is likable enough, if slightly square for a book that is at times delightfully weird. On the balance, though, I think the tone works and is an advantage. There’s enough sex and swearing to keep it from seeming chaste or overly cozy.

The trouble with the book is how gosh-darned nice everyone seems for the greater part of the novel. The suspense doesn’t really fully kick into gear until the final third. The whole work feels under-dramatized to me, and the sentences were often a little under-written, as well.

However, the ideas in the book are delightful and nicely thought-through, and a lot of the imagery is compelling and memorable (I found myself really wishing I could read one of the books Marshall France wrote). The answer to the riddle of France’s hometown is a tough thing to do right, and I think Jonathan Carroll nails it. The end of the story is perfect. Overall, I liked this book, but I wish there had been more conflict throughout the piece as a whole.

Imaginative and creative, just a little unfinished.

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