Award-winning author, narrator, and screenwriter Neil Gaiman personally selected this book, and, using the tools of the Audiobook Creation Exchange (ACX), cast the narrator and produced this work for his audiobook label, Neil Gaiman Presents.
A few words from Neil on The Land of Laughs: "I chose The Land of Laughs for Neil Gaiman Presents because I love Jonathan Carroll’s books and want to bring them to as wide an audience as possible. I suspected the character of Thomas Abbey would be both a challenge and an opportunity for the right narrator. Edoardo Ballerini conveys a certain wistfulness and vulnerability underneath Abbey’s grumpiness."
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.
To hear more from Neil Gaiman on The Land of Laughs, click here, or listen to the introduction at the beginning of the book itself.
©1980 Jonathan Carroll (P)2011 Richard Parks
"Edoardo Ballerini perfectly captures the hesitant and faltering Thomas Abbey, a schoolteacher who wants to write the biography of his favorite children’s author, the mysterious Marshall France. Thomas’s story starts out realistically enough, but when he and his girlfriend take a research trip to France’s hometown in Missouri, things begin to veer into the bizarre. Ballerini makes the listener sympathize with Thomas, even as he begins an affair with France’s daughter, Anna, a woman obsessed with her dead father. Ballerini’s command of Thomas’s character and his spot-on voices for the secondary characters ground the story as it becomes more fantastical and the listener learns that either things aren’t what they seem or Thomas is not entirely sane. An unsettling examination of obsession." (AudioFile)
I decided to buy this title because it was selected by Neil Gaiman, and I am so glad that I did. I love the fact that even though the main character is flawed, he is still likeable, and draws the reader deeper into the story. I love the twists that the plot takes, many totally unexpected. Thank you again, Neil Gaiman, for introducing me to this author.
I am a 65-year-old psychologist, married for 25 years, with two sons who are 25 and 22. I love reviewing the books and the feedback I get.
This book begins well enough. It is the story of a teacher and writer named Thomas Abbey and his girlfriend Saxony. Tom takes a sabbatical year in which he decides to write a biography of his favorite author, a man named Marshall France. For the first half or so, the book is a well-written story, narrated by the always wonderful Edoardo Ballerini, which makes it a delightful experience just for that. However...(isn't there always a however?)... our heroes drive to the town of Galen, Missouri, and this is where the story escalates into a fable of delusional proportions. If you knew that this was going to be some variety of science fictionish work, that would be one thing. But, not having known that, the book becomes pretty preposterous. I can't help revealing the spoiler here, as it takes up almost half the book, and is, I suppose, the grand idea of Mr. Carroll's. The conceit here is that Marshall France has written a magnum opus in which he has created the entire town: all the people who live in it, precisely what they do, when they die, etc. He (France) also has the superpowers available to himself that he can make people die at his whim, or turn into dogs, etc. At first Tom and Saxony do not believe the tale, but they are fiercely sold on it by Anna, the author's daughter. Soon Tom is sleeping with Anna as well as Saxony. Since science fiction requires us to suspend our usual assumptions about life, the only way to enjoy this experience, I think, is to just not try to think too carefully about the entire conceit, as it will fall down like a house of cards on the briefest examination. France becomes a version of God. He apparently has written so voluminously into the past and the future of Galen that ordinary mortals would have taken lifetimes to do this alone, not to speak of writing work that will be marketed and sold to the public. (France's writing about Galen is a Big Secret.) Some of it has a Wizard of Oz quality: children might be mystified, but the outfits are made of cardboard, and pay no attention to that man...
I love Edoardo Ballerini as I love no other narrator. He does the absolute maximum with this material that he can. However, nothing can protect Tom from being the wimpy, passive academic that he is. He bounces from Saxony to Anna, begging each of them to make the decisions in his life that he is too paralyzed by OCD (obsessive compulsive disorder) to make. By the end, you really are considering the possibility that it all really WAS a dream, a thing which worked in literature about 100 years ago.
I would only cautiously recommend this book, primarily for fellow lovers of Ballerini. His skills are so marvelous that they can elevate a lot of writing way above where it actually "deserves" to be. What a guy.
The best books, both fiction and non-fiction, create a world in the mind of the reader that is as real as the world in which the reader actually lives. If that is the case for the reader, it can only be more so for the author who has become totally immersed in the world he/she is creating.
Neil Gaiman is a connoisseur of literature that skirts along the edge separating the world of the mind and the world around us. While I haven't been thrilled with every NGP selection, this one does not disappoint, as it follows the career of a young aspiring writer, Tom Abbey, who wants to write a biography of the author whose books created an imaginary world into which Abbey retreated as a child. That author's adopted home town turns out to be a very strange place, indeed, a place existing on the border between reality and fiction. A story that is both fun and thought-provoking.
Land of Laughs was mystical and surprising story and there are lot's of things going beneath. Now, when I know the story and how it ends I certainly gonna listen it again, maybe there are more surprises..
It reminded me a little bit of Ray Bradbury stories. Nothing is like it seems.
I loved his female characters, but the Italian undertaker was my favorite. Overall Edoardo Ballerini was my one of my favorite narrators and I surely gonna find is there more books narrated by him.
Shorten it by half! Make at least one of the characters likeable.
Pruning. It went on and on even when it was obvious where the whole thing was headed something like having one's head beaten against a brick wall. The central idea was good but was hideously overworked until it died of sheer exhaustion.
He made a great job of some very tedious material, no complaints there.
What is it about American writers which makes them feel they have to bludgeon their readers senseless in order to get their message accross? Is the American reading public slow or something?I bought this book mainly on the recommendation of Neil Gaiman, for whom I have great respect, but I will be looking at his opinions on other writers much more critically in future. What were you thinking Neil?
There was a horrible twist at the end, and then it just trails off without any resolution.
No, just made me more wary of Neil's list. I love Neil Gaiman's work, but I'm now questioning his list.
I loved it, but I think it requires a particular 'type' of person to enjoy it.
English majors and well-read 'eccentrics' will enjoy.
They're all terrible. Which is why I enjoyed it. I suppose Saxony is almost likable. Really, a good 'horrible' character is my favorite type.
The perfect privileged, pretentious, professorial speaking style. Seriously, he takes a somewhat loathsome character and makes him smugly pitch perfect. Applause!
Nails the dog. You'd have to read the book to find out.
As always, if you like to loathe your characters, you'll like this. Thomas is so delightfully, unwittingly narcissistic and inconsiderate, and it is fun to see what is going on in his head.
I would delete the last few paragraphs. It doesn't spoil any of the ending for me to say that the final scene of the book was more or less unnecessary, and the twist therein left more more frustrated and annoyed than pleased. The story ended with a triumphant finish, then there was an epilogue, and then the epilogue got its own finish that didn't really work for me.
More importantly, I would speed up the pace of the first part of the book. By a lot. A real lot. I feel like this would have been an absolutely amazing short story, but was only a so-so novel. I stuck it out because I wanted to see what Neil Gaiman so admired about it, and I started listening in the first place because the premise sounded so cool. Someone starts writing a biography of his childhood hero, and things start getting weird. Great. I'm sold. A whole town full of people who know their own futures? Awesome. Bring on showing me the psychological implications of that, both for them and for an outsider coming in. BUUUUUT, see the next part of this review for the reason for my three stars.
The premise was wonderful. Unfortunately, the book is divided into three parts, and the premise *does not even appear until part three*. The first few pages were very misleading. The protagonist collects creepy masks and meets a mysterious woman who shares one of his obscure interests and hand-carves creepy marionettes? Yes please. Tell me more. Instead, for the next five of eight total hours, I got to listen to them doing some preliminary research, finding a few contradictory details, moving to a sleepy Midwest town, and finding out some more mundane things. I spent most of those five hours wondering when the interesting part would come, and re-checking the description of the book to make sure I hadn't accidentally gotten the wrong one. Sure, it was "good writing" and I appreciate that, and the voice actor did a great job, but about 2/3 of the story was utterly uninteresting to me. What I was expecting to be the bulk of the book was actually an extended conclusion... It was a very good conclusion, sure, but the excessive build-up left a sour taste in my mouth.
Depends on what the trailers played up. If they billed it as an obsessed biographer losing his grip on reality in the midst of a love triangle, not a chance. Pass. If they billed it as a biographer accidentally discovering a town full of impossible things, perhaps. But I doubt I'd feel like I got my $14 worth.
I'm not entirely sure that this book warrants a 4 star review, but if I rate it any lower, I'm afraid you'll pass it over. If you like stories where you know from the beginning that there is something that we're not being told, this is for you. Someone put this in the category of the "unreliable narrator" story, but I'm not sure that even quite describes it. I finished this book weeks ago, and i cant get it out of my head. Definitely worth the credit!
The author chose a challenging concept
He could have endowed his characters with a generosity of spirit.
Mr. Ballerini's presentation was excellent. I have not heard anything else by this performer.
This book is long on a sense of the inadequacy of the central characters and short on magic. However, some people might enjoy the underlying aura of malevolence.
Report Inappropriate Content
If you find this review inappropriate and think it should be removed from our site, let us know. This report will be reviewed by Audible and we will take appropriate action.