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The Land of Laughs

3.91  ·  Rating Details ·  4,229 Ratings  ·  342 Reviews
Have you ever loved a magical book above all others? Have you ever wished the magic were real? Welcome to The Land of Laughs. A novel about how terrifying that would be.

Schoolteacher Thomas Abbey, unsure son of a film star, doesn't know who he is or what he wants--in life, in love, or in his relationship with the strange and intense Saxony Gardner. What he knows is that in
Paperback, 256 pages
Published February 10th 2001 by Orb Books (first published September 26th 1980)
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House of Leaves by Mark Z. DanielewskiSloughing Off the Rot by Lance CarbuncleNaked Lunch by William S. BurroughsFear and Loathing in Las Vegas by Hunter S. ThompsonSlaughterhouse-Five by Kurt Vonnegut
Now That's REALLY Freakin' Weird...
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96th out of 373 books — 557 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Apr 05, 2009 Michael rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: slipstream
The Land of Laughs is the subtle sort of slipstream novel where something just itches at your brain; you know things aren't on the level but it's impossible to place precisely what until quite a ways in. Carroll imbues his characters with quirks and humanity. The ending was not one that I would have ever guessed. A very pleasant surprise of a book that shouldn't have sat in my cupboard for as long as it did.
Bill  Kerwin
Oct 11, 2016 Bill Kerwin rated it really liked it
Shelves: weird-fiction

This cult classic--a bigger hit in Poland than in the author's native USA--is a strange novel, and a very interesting one. At the beginning, it seems to be a piece of realistic fiction, narrating the efforts of a high school English instructor in his 30's and his researcher girlfriend to write the biography of a deceased children's book author they idolize. But when they get to the author's hometown, things get weirder and weirder--and the book itself gets stranger and stranger. Unlike many book
Dec 19, 2008 Julia rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: lovers of fantasy, creative art
Recommended to Julia by: my daughter
Shelves: magical-realism
I'll end up with a slew of Carroll novels--this one came out in America in 1980, so is one of the early ones. Check out Carroll's website . Neil Gaiman, who admires Carroll greatly, wrote an introduction for the website which says:

"Jonathan Carroll's a changer. He's one of the special ones, one of the few. He paints the world he sees. He opens a window you did not know was there and invites you to look through it. He gives you his eyes to see with, and he gives you the w
Brent Legault
Mar 26, 2014 Brent Legault rated it did not like it
Here's what I think: it has a lot of "Boy, howdy!" dialogue. Sometimes the narration reads like an eager family newsletter and is infested with as many tired phrases. The plot and its "twists" are no more interesting or serpentine than an episode of The Twilight Zone or a Stephen King short story. Someone (An editor, perhaps. Did this book have an editor?) should have suggested that Carroll look up "elegant variation" in Fowler's. Much or most of his sentences are just careless, thoughtless, rus ...more
Sep 24, 2009 tim rated it it was amazing
Five stars here. Five stars there. I'm shameless. Maybe it's because I'm impressed by almost anyone that can write this well (including so many of you GRers!). It could also be that I'm on a recent streak of really awesome books. Or maybe I don't feel the star-rating system means much one way or the other except to reinforce some deep-seated reward expectation at receiveing gold stars for a job well done.

Either way, this is my favorite Jonathan Carroll so far, by far. Subtle, sleight-of-hand tri
jonathan carroll's books are like gourmet jellybeans. even his shittiest flavors are better than most regular jellybeans, and who doesn't like jellybeans? (alfonso claims that only white people eat jellybeans, which is untrue, but it's such an odd racial stereotype i feel compelled to add it here).

you know how there is some music that no matter what mood you are in, it just happens to be the right music?? jonathan carroll is like that for me. he's just...wonderful, like a new crush you can't sto
Blake Fraina
Sep 10, 2011 Blake Fraina rated it really liked it
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 a ...more
Sep 02, 2013 Kevin rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Feb 01, 2011 T4ncr3d1 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Il romanzo d'esordio che ha fatto conoscere il genio di Jonathan Carroll al mondo intero. O quasi.
C'è già tutto, di Carroll, tutti gli ingredienti fondamentali del suo particolarissimo stile. E' un trionfo di surreale ed ironia. Soprattutto questa, che rende il libro un po' diverso dalle altre opere di Carroll (soprattutto dal "Sestetto"), spesso più cupe e horror.
La storia è originalissima, fresca, innovativa, assolutamente imprevedibile, fino alle ultime battute.
E' una storia molto particolare
Jeremy Allan
I had a difficult time getting invested in this novel, and not because it was a recommendation from my father (hi Dad!). In The Land of Laughs, Jonathan Carroll takes some immediate risks by making it clear early on that the world in which this book is set will not fit neatly as a substitute for the world we live in, though it seems close in many ways. As such, you might liken it to Magical Realism. This is a difficult way to begin a story when faced with a reader who begins every novel with a s ...more
Mar 25, 2013 seak rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2013
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-obses
Mój pierwszy kontakt z prozą Jonathana Carrolla miał miejsce przeszło siedem lat temu. Do późnych godzin nocnych i z wypiekami na twarzy zagłębiałam się w „Krainę Chichów”, by zaraz po zakończeniu lektury zaliczyć ją w poczet ulubionych książek. Kiedy sięgałam po nią ponownie, zastanawiałam się przede wszystkim nad tym, jak udało jej się przetrwać próbę czasu i czy za drugim razem będzie w stanie zachwycić mnie równie mocno.

By nie trzymać nikogo w niepewności – „Kraina Chichów” nadal okupuje zas
Feb 10, 2013 Lee rated it really liked it
Shelves: fantasy
When you're an English lit teacher, with a little creative writing background, can afford to take a semester off (your late father was a very popular actor,who left you a comfortable inheritence), to go talk to the daughter of your favorite childhood author (who is a God in your eyes) to see if you can write his biography. You head for the midwestern/small town/Mayberry look alike - Galen, MO. Then you start to realize, this isn't like where Opie lived after all.
This is one of the books I have h
The Land of Laughs is a tricky book.

I thought it was pretty close to perfect, until the last ten pages or so; I walked away from the ending dissatisfied -- distressed, even -- and am still trying to work out whether it was a failure on the level of expectation or of writing. Was I thrown because I assumed the narrative would follow traditional, comforting fantasy logic? Or did Jonathan Carroll just write a careless, pulpy, trainwrecky ending?

The novel starts out full of nostalgia and metafiction
Scott Foley
Feb 21, 2012 Scott Foley rated it really liked it
Land of Laughs was actually recommended to me based on my love of Paul Auster by someone I've never met. Though I was totally unfamiliar with Jonathan Carroll, I'm always on the hunt for new (to me) authors, so I figured I'd give him a shot!

Land of Laughs is about a man named Thomas Abbey, a bored English teacher and son of a famous deceased actor. He decides to take some time off work to write a biography on his favorite children's author, Marshall France. After meeting a woman named Saxony Gar
Teri Nolan
Feb 26, 2012 Teri Nolan rated it really liked it
I nearly gave this novel fives stars - it was so close! The omission of that fifth star was purely based on dialogue. The story was five star, the narrative was five star, but sometimes (not all of the time) the dialogue did not flow naturally, like real conversation. It's a cleverly written book, very enjoyable and holds your attention in that delectable way the best stories do. Land of Laughs was written in 1980 and published in 1982, which was really fun because reading the story reminded me ...more
Scott Callaway
Apr 24, 2012 Scott Callaway rated it it was amazing
At the time of writing this review, I have literally just finished reading The Land of Laughs about 60 seconds ago, and my stomach feels like it is twisted into knots.

What an amazingly succulent treat this story was! I am basically going to be gushing about this book, but holy sweet Lord in heaven I think I'm in love. I was hooked from the start and I grew to care about the characters, even if they did at times piss me off. The storytelling was fantastic and right till the end I relished every w
Il paese della pazze risate non è affatto un paese ma un libro, per la precisione un libro per bambini scritto da Marshall France, scrittore osannato dal protagonista del romanzo.
La ricerca di informazioni sullo France e il desiderio di diventarne il biografo porterà Thomas Abbey e Saxony Gardner a Galen, cittadina in cui lo scrittore è vissuto fino alla morte.
Il romanzo è divertente e ironico, parla del rapporto con i genitori che non ci sono più e di quello con le divinità crudeli che guidano
Keith Harvey
Aug 20, 2012 Keith Harvey rated it really liked it
Thomas Abbey, a schoolteacher, who says he doesn't know what a gerund is, decides to quit teaching and write a biography of his favorite writer, Marshall France, a writer of children's tales, who died at forty-four. France is his obsession and this obsession forms the impetus of the novel, Carroll's first, published in 1980.

Obsession, by a reader, for a writer is a prevalent device in modern literature. Recent examples include Roberto Bolano's 2666 and Lev Grossman's The Magicians. However, in t
Craig Nickerson
Sep 29, 2012 Craig Nickerson rated it it was amazing
Shelves: fantasy-dark
This was Jonathan Carroll's first novel, the only one of his books that I've read. Based on this I'll be reading others. The Land Of Laughs came highly recommended by a friend and after reading it I wondered how in Hell I’d never heard of it before. It’s a dark fantasy which starts out as a whimsical, romantic adventure which becomes increasingly eerie and sinister as the novel progresses. It has a terrific hook which comes later on and balances its' alternate moods very well.

Thomas Abbey is the
Caro M.
Mar 24, 2015 Caro M. rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Caro by: ex-boyfriend
I've read this book twice. Both times I was satisfied and amazed. And I am going to do it again.
Simon Mcleish
Nov 01, 2012 Simon Mcleish rated it really liked it
Originally published on my blog here in March 2001.

The narrator of The Land of Laughs is a young English teacher, unhappy at his job, who has been obsessed with children's author Marshall France since he was a boy. Thomas Abbey requests leave of absence from his school to write a biography of France, with the help of a young woman he meets in a bookshop when both want to buy a rare France volume. They have to travel to Galen, Missouri, where France lived for most of his life, and persuade his da
May 08, 2013 Maciek rated it it was ok
Jonathan Carroll is a writer whose name I have been hearing over the years, but whose fiction I've never tried. An American living in Vienna for many years, he has developed a quiet but steadfast cult following - much like the city itself, with its with its unlimited supply of quiet coffee houses - the famous Viennese cafés, described by UNESCO as places "where time and space are consumed, but only the coffee is found on the bill". Legend has it that soldiers from the Polish-Habsburg army found ...more
Robert Warren
Aug 17, 2013 Robert Warren rated it liked it
A dear friend who knows me well pressed this book on me and said, "Read it, you'll love it." She told me nothing about the Land of Laughs, and I'm glad. She loaned me her old paperback copy, which, unlike later editions, has no Neil Gaiman intro. I'm also glad about this, as I'm sure NG, who I love, divulges some plot points because he can't help himself.

The passing of this book from hand to hand was one of those times when a friend's enthusiasm was all it took for me to give it a shot. While I
Nikki Stafford
Mar 19, 2014 Nikki Stafford rated it it was amazing
For six years, I waited for this book to be mentioned on Lost. Every season that came and went where it wasn't, I kept thinking they were holding off until the finale. And then they didn't. So let me say this: LOST FANS WILL LOVE THIS BOOK. I first read this book back in 2001, I think, and I couldn't stop thinking about it. So this year I decided to read it again, and loved it all over again. The basic premise is that a guy who was the son of a very famous actor (think Cary Grant) grows up in th ...more
This book most definitely would have deserved 5 shining stars had it not been for the weakest love line ever (and the author should have revealed a bit more about the female bookish-nerdish sidekick, I got a feeling as if she's got a lot to hide).
(and I wish the main character hadn't been such a self-important jerk sometimes!)

Apart from it, it's almost perfect. What I liked the most was the ending, which was beautiful and scary and cool. I liked the whole 80's gadgetless atmosphere, when people
Feb 16, 2016 Karen rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
I loved Jonathan Carroll's The Land of the Laughs. I have this book in Hardcover, First Edition. Inscribed and signed by Jonathan Carroll "To ___These Laughs are just for you." That being said, this is the only Jonathan Carroll book that I liked. I don't like fantasy or science fiction. The Land of Laughs came out in 1980. So I disagree with some of the negative reviews. I was utterly transfixed by the narrative and the ending blew me away. This was a chilling, albeit fantasy genre that I could ...more
Pam Baddeley
Up to about page 130 I was really enjoying this novel, although there are similarities to Carroll's second novel, Voice of Our Shadow. In form it, too, is the first person narrative of a man who although he starts off as a dissatisfied teacher soon embarks on a writing career. And he has baggage from childhood that he obsesses about although in this case it is his famous film actor father.

The theme of the book is famous fathers: the protagonist, Thomas, needs permission from Anna, daughter of M
Nick Iuppa
Jul 15, 2016 Nick Iuppa rated it it was amazing
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Aug 08, 2016 Arsnoctis rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: let-it-be
Una lettura piacevole che mi sembra raccontare tutto quello che avrei potuto voler sapere su questa storia. Carroll mi ha mostrato il tradimento sotto una luce completamente diversa e questo mi ha lasciata un po' sospettosa nei suoi confronti, ma in generale posso dire di aver apprezzato ogni momento di questo libercolo.

Consigliato in particolare a: qualunque adulto che abbia amato la visione del film Big Fish.
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Jonathan Carroll (b. 1949) is an award-winning American author of modern fantasy and slipstream novels. His debut book, The Land of Laughs (1980), tells the story of a children’s author whose imagination has left the printed page and begun to influence reality. The book introduced several hallmarks of Carroll’s writing, including talking animals and worlds that straddle the thin line between reali ...more
More about Jonathan Carroll...

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“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.” 47 likes
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