The Land of Laughs was Jonathan Carroll’s first published novel. When it first appeared, it was misleadingly packaged as a juvenile book, most likely because one of the main characters is a writer of children’s stories. It was not until a paperback edition of The Land of Laughs appeared in 1983 that the book began to earn more critical attention, and it has since become something of a cult classic.
Thomas Abbey, a man in his mid-thirties who teaches English at a boys’ prep school, is trying to deal with being the son of a famous actor who died in a plane crash. He leads a solitary life, wrapped up in his hobbies of collecting masks and the written works of Marshall France, a dead but still famous children’s book author who captured the imagination of both children and adults with his vivid imagery and poetic prose.
Abbey meets Saxony Gardner, a woman who shares his enthusiasm for France’s work. With her encouragement, he decides to write a biography of France. Together they travel to Galen, Missouri, the small town where France spent the later years of his life. After obtaining permission from Anna France, the writer’s daughter, to begin their research, Abbey and Gardner rent rooms in the town and begin to explore Galen and meet its inhabitants.
Gradually, they realize there is something odd about the little town. Abbey witnesses a boy getting hit by a car and is shocked that the townspeople are far...
(The entire section is 572 words.)