The Land of Laughs

The Land of Laughs

by Jonathan Carroll

Paperback(First Edition)

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Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780312873110
Publisher: Tom Doherty Associates
Publication date: 02/10/2001
Edition description: First Edition
Pages: 256
Product dimensions: 5.50(w) x 8.50(h) x 0.57(d)

About the Author

Jonathan Carroll has written 13 novels, a short story collection, and a number of film scripts. He has won the World Fantasy award, British Fantasy award, French Fantasy award (twice), and the Bram Stoker award. He has lived in Vienna, Austria for three decades with his wife Beverly and immortal bullterrier, Jack the Idiot.

Read an Excerpt


"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—"

"—Son?" Ah, the eternal question. I recently told my mother that my name isn't Thomas Abbey, but rather Stephen Abbey's Son. This time I sighed and pushed what was left of my cheesecake around the plate. "It's very hard to say. I just remember him as being very friendly, very loving. Maybe he was just stoned all the time."

Her eyes lit up at that. I could almost hear the sharp little wheels clickety-clicking in her head. So he was an addict! And it came straight from his kid's mouth. She tried to cover her delight by being understanding and giving me a way out if I wanted it.

"I guess, like everyone else, I've always read a lot about him. But you never know if those articles are true or not, you know?"

I didn't feel like talking about it anymore. "Most of the stories about him are probably pretty true. The ones I've heard about or read are." Luckily the waitress was passing, so I was able to make a big thing out of getting the bill, looking it over, paying it—anything to stop the conversation.

When we got outside, December was still there and the cold air smelled chemical, like a refinery or a tenth-grade chemistry class deep into the secrets of stink. She slipped her arm through mine. I looked at her and smiled. She was pretty—short red hair, green eyes that were always wide with a kind of happy astonishment, a nice body. So I couldn't help smiling then too, and for the first time that night I was glad she was there with me.

The walk from the restaurant to the school was just a little under two miles, but she insisted on our hiking it both ways. Over would build up our appetites, back would work off what we'd eaten. When I asked her if she chopped her own wood, she didn't even crack a smile. My sense of humor has often been lost on people.

By the time we got back to the school we were pretty chummy. She hadn't asked any more questions about my old man and had spent most of the time telling me a funny story about her gay uncle in Florida.

We got back to Founder's Hall, a masterpiece of neo-Nazi architecture, and I saw that I had stopped us on the school crest laid into the floor. Her arm tightened in mine when she noticed this, and I thought I might as well ask then as anytime.

"Would you like to see my masks?"

She giggled a giggle that sounded like water draining from a sink. Then she shook her finger at me in a no-no-naughty-boy! way.

"You don't mean your etchings, do you?"

I had hoped that she might be half-human, but this dirty little Betty Boop routine popped that balloon. Why couldn't a woman be marvelous for once? Not winky, not liberated, not vacuous…

"No, really, you see, I have this mask collection, and—"

She squeezed me again and cut off the circulation in my upper arm.

"I'm just kidding, Thomas. I'd love to see it."

Like all tight-fisted New England prep schools, the apartments that they gave their teachers, especially single teachers, were awful. Mine had a tiny hallway, a study that was painted yellow once but forgot, a bedroom, and a kitchen so old and fragile that I never once thought of cooking there because I had to pay all of the repair costs.

But I had sprung for a gallon of some top-of-the-line house paint so that at least the wall that the collection was on would have a little dignity.

The only outside door to the place opened onto the hallway, so coming in with her was okay. I was nervous, but I was dying to see how she'd react. She was cuddling and cooing the whole time, but then we went around the corner into my bed-living room.

"Oh, my God! Wha…? Where did you get…?" Her voice trailed off into little puffs of smoke as she went up to take a closer look. "Where did you get, uh, him?"

"In Austria. Isn't it a great one?" Rudy the Farmer was brown and tan and beautifully carved in an almost offhand way that added to his rough, piggy-fat, drunken face. He gleamed too, because I had been experimenting that morning with a new kind of linseed oil that hadn't dried yet.

"But it's…it's almost real. He's shining!"

At that point my hopes went up up up. Was she awed? If so, I'd forgive her. Not many people had been awed by the masks. They got many points from me when they were.

I didn't mind when she reached out to touch some of them as she moved on. I even liked her choice of which ones to touch. The Water Buffalo, Pierrot, the Krampus.

"I started buying them when I was in college. When my father died, he left me some money, so I took a trip to Europe." I went over to the Marquesa and touched her pink-peach chin softly. "This one, the Marquesa, I saw in a little side-street store in Madrid. She was the first one I bought."

My Marquesa with her tortoiseshell combs, her too-white and too-big teeth that had been smiling at me for almost eight years. The Marquesa.

"And what's that one?"

"That's a death mask of John Keats."

"A death mask?"

"Yes. Sometimes when famous people die, they'll make a mold of their faces before they bury them. Then they cast copies…" I stopped talking when she looked at me as if I were Charles Manson.

"But they're just so creepy! How can you sleep in here with them? Don't they scare you?"

"No more than you do, my dear."

That was that. Five minutes later she was gone and I was putting some of the linsfeed oil on another mask.

Copyright © 1980 by Jonathan Carroll

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Land of Laughs 3.9 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 18 reviews.
woodge on LibraryThing 8 months ago
My first Jonathan Carroll book. Won't be my last. Fun and odd.
finchesghost on LibraryThing 8 months ago
This has one of the most satisfying endings I have read in a while. Carroll does a great job establishing a mood and exploring the power of the written word. One really does not know where this novel is going until well into it when the fantasy aspects set in . Defintily a worthy read.
blakefraina on LibraryThing 8 months ago
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.
HippieLunatic on LibraryThing 8 months ago
Bizarre and intriguing are two of the most accurate descriptors I can think of for Carroll's work, The Land of Laughs. I can't wait to pick up more by this author, who seems to have a great grasp on character development, but is able to pair it appropriately with a fun and unique storyline. Thomas Abbey's growth within the book was solidified in me in the final paragraphs of the epilogue, as either madness or genius is hinted at. Either way, his character has changed, making the time spent in Galen, focusing on the life and achievements of his favorite author come full circle, as the student becomes the master.
joeltallman on LibraryThing 10 months ago
Jonathan Carroll is brilliant and aggravating. This one didn't work so well for me. The concept advertises itself too early on, and the rest of the book doesn't have the suspense it might. I liked it; didn't love it.
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Guest More than 1 year ago
You fall into the first half of this novel like you would with an old fairy tale, which makes it even more shocking when this tale turns frightening.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I have not finished the book yet, but what I like is that everything starts in an ordinary life of two intellactually equal people. And next something magical suppose to happen...Plus jokes had proven to be funny even for people with very bad sence of humor...So far I love it...
Guest More than 1 year ago
After descovering the book back in print I purchased it in complet deleruim. At home I quickly set to reading it, and to my disapointment found it something other then what I intitaly thought. In spite of my words please do not be discuraged. It is a fantastic, well writen peice of work, embued with life. I thought the plot to be something inspired by the twilight Zone. I would have rated my review with 3 and 1/2 stars, but that is imposable, and I feel it is undeserveing of 4 stars.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Those who have been reading Jonathan Carroll works for years can only rejoice that his first novel is finally back in print. In England it is being re-released as a 'Fantasy Masterpiece' and there is no question that it is. If you like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Mark Danielewski, Neal Stephenson and/or Jonathan Lethem (just to mention a few) then buy this book quick and fall in love with one of the great visionary writers of our time. If you're just starting with Carroll, it's a perfect place to start. Brilliant.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I really dont know what all the hype was about. It is wholly predictable from the first strange occurance in Galen and the writing is cliched through and through. It seemed as though the concept for this book was developed as carroll continued to write and that once he reached the beginning of the conclusion, it just stopped. If you are looking for a similar book to beat this one try something by tom robbins, perhaps Still Life with Woodpecker. All i can say in favor for it is that usually when i decide i dont like a book I put it down and start another...but with this one i felt somewhat compelled to keep reading until i had finished. But I didnt enjoy it the whole ride.