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 got half way through this book and was so. intrigued. Here we had this utterly delectable little novel with a great premise, wonderful characters, and an completely unique perspective, and by the time I got right smack dab in the middle of it I was tearing my hair out trying to figure out what diabolical mystery it could all be building up to. And then I found out and all I could think was "oh, is that all? well I can tell where this is headed".
And the book rolled on. And it ended just like I thought it would (I really loved the closing lines though) which afforded me the opportunity to nod sagely to myself while listening to my ipod between classes and ruminate on the inadvisability of trying to predict plot twists. For a long time after I sat and mulled over why I thought it was that I didn't enjoy the latter half of this book as much as the former. I think its because I've just read, if at all possible, too much fantasy. If you know your tropes you can spot this one from a mile away.
But I still liked everything else about it. And obviously I am in the minority in my opinion about not being so hot on it. I don't mean to seem self congratulatory for having figured it out, that's not my intention. I was just hoping for something different. That being said I do not consider this to have been a waste of a credit - I still enjoyed the story, I'm still utterly fascinated by the characters and Ballerini did a fantastic job in bringing it all to life. Quibbles aside, I still recommend it.
In the end I think this book did what it was supposed to do - it introduced me to an author I never would have heard about otherwise, and it made me want to listen to his other works (I've added everything else he offers through Neil Gaiman Presents to my wish list). While this might not have been a strong entry into his cannon for me personally, I can tell he's someone whose work will appeal to me and I look foreword to listening to more first chance I get.
I got this because I was looking for horror. Turns out it's really more interested in exploring what happens when you live for your art rather than living for actual life.
Fans of metaphor and hyperbole will love this book. See, the way Jonathan Carroll rolls is to describe things using biting quips that echo what pops into our heads day-to-day -- for example, your lover doesn't "cling so tightly to you that you have to peel yourself away in the morning"; instead, she "scotch-tapes herself to you".
As for the narrator, Ballerini does a great job with the male leads but it gets hard to tell the voices of the main female leads apart.
63 y/o psychologist with two sons, living in SF Bay Area. I absolutely love all the feedback I've been getting for my reviews. It's very gratifying. Thanks to all of you.
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.
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.
An usual book. It's a page turner and yet you really don't know where the plot is taking you. The characters are original and richly developed. Both enjoyable and intelligent.
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.
This is a tale with great ideas, and reasonably well-written, but lacks pace. Most of the characters are not particularly likeable, and the performance is average; little more. I feel that it would have been better off as a short story.
This is a very entertaining mix of the mystery and fantasy genres, and translates well to audio format.
The most memorable moment comes when the protagonist, Thomas Abbey, realizes that the small town of Galen, Missouri, is not as it appears. The plot, which had been developing in an apparently predictable course, as Abbey struggles to write his first book, the biography of his favorite childhood author, suddenly takes on unexpected
This is the first of Edoardo Ballerini's performances I have heard. I was deeply impressed. None of his characters are annoying, they are all clearly identified as he read his way along. It reminded me of an old radio play more than listening to someone read a book out loud.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Thomas Abbey is a burnt out prep-school English teacher (who's heard one too many vapid book reports about ???The Fall of the House of Usher???) with an extensive collection of well-oiled masks but no lover. And don???t ask him about his deceased movie star father! Since childhood, the one thing that he has unreservedly loved is the work of Marshall France, a mysterious author of popular children???s fantasy books, of which Thomas??? favorite is The Land of Laughs. As Jonathan Carroll???s novel opens, Thomas has decided to go on a leave of absence, during which he plans to write the first biography of France. Will he succeed? Will Saxony Gardner, a young woman who also loves the books of France, be able to help him? Will France???s eccentric daughter Anna hinder them? How did France create such real characters and wonderful stories? Why do the people of Galen, Missouri remind one of The Wicker Man and Inkheart?
I chucklingly enjoyed the first third of the novel! It is quirky and funny, and I care a great deal about Thomas and Saxony and their biographical quest. But by the last third it becomes disturbing and by the ending disappointing, perhaps because Carroll abandons the attraction of children???s fantasy books for the creepiness of creation, and because the d??nouement is abrupt and unpleasant. Though The Land of Laughs is largely about the life and work of an author of children???s books, Carroll???s novel is not for children.
The reading by Edoardo Ballerini is well paced and varied for the different characters and situations (though a few times I confused his Saxony and Anna) and balances emotion and restraint.
Carroll???s novel is about many things: America (popular culture, gothic, small towns, big cities, etc.), writing, reading, biography, fame, fans, love, family, fantasy, reality, and the relationships between them. Is it a horror novel? An urban fantasy? A metafiction? A romance? A father and son novel? It???s a little of all of those. It is surely unpredictable and memorable.
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.
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