25 March, 2013

Review - The Land of Laughs by Jonathan Carroll

Thomas Abbey has always loved the books by Marshall France, you may even say he's obsessed with them. He has a copy of just about every book written by the famed (and fictional) author and has an inheritance from his famous father that allows him to pay big bucks for even the rarest publications.

Abbey, who is also a school English teacher, decides he wants to write a biography of his favorite author even though he's never written anything in his life. He manages to run into a fellow France-obsessed fan in his endeavors and they proceed to visit the mysterious town where France did the majority of his writing and where he escaped the limelight.

The Land of Laughs [US] [UK] is really a book for book lovers. I'm sure if you've found yourself on this blog, you may have been borderline obsessive about an author or two in your life and even currently, so this book is extremely easy to relate to in that respect. 

If this doesn't make perfect sense to you, I don't know what will:
“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.” 
Then again, I've gotten over my need to read through everything I start. Life's way too short for that.

The Land of Laughs is considered a fantasy, but most of the book has almost nothing fantastical about it. It could also very easily be described as a horror, at least just as much as it can be considered fantasy because there were some truly spine-tingling scenes toward the end that are worth the read alone.

What impressed me almost immediately is that this is Carroll's debut novel and he's writing about a fictional author who's legendary in this novel he's created. Naturally, you have to prove at least to some degree why this person is such a beloved author. I guess you don't have to necessarily, but it would be much harder to make it believable. And yet, some of the lines from this fictional author are beautiful and therefore completely believable in all respects.

Similar to Kurt Vonnegut's Breakfast of Champions, The Land of Laughs is a book of many other books. Many of the famous books that are fictionally written by Marshall France are explained and even plotted even though never written in real life. Carroll even gives us lines from the books which are splendid and as I said above, purvey the beauty of France's writing.

The eponymous book is actually France's most famous book:
"The eyes that light The Land of Laughs was lit by eyes that saw the light's that no one's seen."
Cover for my copy.
There were a few lines like this that just made me smile and enchanted me to no end. I wish I could find more of them right now because they're excellent and really do provide a magical quality to the story and writing both. 

In addition, the rest of The Land of Laughs is written in a clever way that resonated really well with me. The first person narrative of Thomas Abbey is clever, but in a self-depricating way. In a book where I should have been bored by the slow start, I was enamored from the beginning.

This story has that magical aspect to it that makes reading an experience. Neil Gaiman doest this to me as well with the same sort of wit and charm. Add to that the twist at the end and this is one of those books that's impossible to forget.

4 out of 5 Stars (Highly Recommended)