James Blaylock’s earlier novels were noted for their chaotic plot structures, which tended to disintegrate as the absurdity of his invention piled up. There was no doubt that Blaylock was a fine writer with an inspired imagination, but his chaotic approach tended to diminish appreciation of his work. With Land of Dreams, he seemed finally to get into his stride. The pacing is still hectic, but the plot line is coherent, if complex.
Land of Dreams owes more than a little to Ray Bradbury’s Something Wicked This Way Comes (1962), with the similar theme of gothic transformation wrought within a town by the presence of a carnival. In Blaylock’s narrative, the impetus for change and transformation clearly comes from the solstice itself, with its implicit magic, rather than simply from the carnival.
Curiously, the novel also seems to have certain resonances with John Steinbeck’s Cannery Row (1945), with the local doctor, Dr. Jensen, engaged like Steinbeck’s Doc in collecting marine animals for sale to biological suppliers. Certainly both novels express a joy in the simple pleasures of small-town life and its characters, and both books have an eye for the absurdities of those characters and places. Dr. Jensen shares Doc’s enthusiasm for curiosities of all kinds and sits at variance with the other inhabitants of Rio Dell, much like Doc in Cannery Row, though most are fond of him.
(The entire section is 388 words.)
Want to Read More?
Subscribe now to read the rest of Land of Dreams Critical Essays. Plus get complete access to 30,000+ study guides!