THE LAND OF LAUGHS by Jonathan Carroll


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A moderately amusing Twilight Zone-r, somewhat blunted by a talky, ambling pace. Young prep-school teacher Thomas, son of deceased film star Stephen Abbey, prefers to idolize another expired great: that celebrated but mysterious writer of brilliant children's fantasies, Marshall France. And this worship of France and his oeuvre brings Tom together with puppeteer Saxony Gardner, so the two lovers go on a pilgrimage to France's small mid-west town of Galen, Missouri, with plans for a France biography (Tom will write, Saxony will research). But the trip to Galen brings a big surprise: France's daughter Anna, rumored to be hateful, turns out to be a hip, clean, friendly, middle-aged middle-American. And the town itself features Norman Rockwell-style folks who seem to laugh with relief whenever there's a death but worry about its timing and attendant circumstances. Strange. . . and what about those talking dogs? Eventually Anna, who checks Tom out, bed-wise, tells all: how her father ""wrote"" a town, created its people, punished bad actors by turning them into dogs, laid out specifics for births, marriages, and deaths; how no Galen citizen could leave the town without dying; how France's power began to fade and things didn't happen the way they were written. So now Tom must ""write"" France back to Galen--a rousing steam-locomotive return--and he then beats it out of town, but not in time to save Saxony, done in by the France-force. Finally, years later, Galen-ers are sent to ""get"" Tom, but he's now writing his actor-father's biography, so guess who blows away a threatening Galen-er with Cagney aplomb. . . ? Not sharp and quick enough to be really scary, but smooth and fetchingly inventive.

Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1980
ISBN: 0312873115
Publisher: Viking