Read by Edoardo Ballerini
Length: 8 Hrs 47 Min
Quick Thoughts: The Land of Laughs is solid storytelling. A Tale that slowly builds, pulling the reader deeper and deeper into the tale, and then smacking them upside the head with a wonderfully delivered ending.
The Land of Laughs is a 2012 Audie Award Nominee in the Category of Fantasy.
The Land of Laughs by Jonathon Carroll is the second book in the Neil Gaiman presents audiobook line that I have undertaken. It is also an Audie nominee for Fantasy which means it is one of my listens for Armchair Audies. I have one stunning confession to make. Although I have read quite a lot in my life, I am not especially well read. Sure, I have my niches where I have explored certain genres well beyond the average reader, but for the whole, I really am not one who has explored the myriad of classics in any particular genre. This is particularly true in Fantasy. I have skinned the surface of the genre, and read many of the modern popular titles. I have read George Martin and Stephen Donaldson, and I have jumped on to the bandwagons of various fads. Yet, I have never really dug into the genre, discovering the hidden classics, the Fantasist’s Fantasies. This is one of the reasons I have been excited about Neil Gaiman’s line. Here is a chance to discover new authors that I may not have had chosen before. Through this line I met a Minotaur who worked at a cook at a Steak House, and his story became one of my favorite audiobooks in 2011. This time, it’s the work of Jonathan Carroll.
The Land of Laughs is about a person obsessed with books. Thomas Abbey has lived his life in the shadow of his father, a popular actor and sex symbol. Abbey’s one refuge was in the world’s created by reclusive children’s fantasy author Marshall France. Now, an adult, Abbey is stuck in a rut, unfulfilled by his job teaching literature to privilege prep school boys. He decided to take a break, and take a chance writing a biography of the author who meant so much to him. Abbey is warned by France’s long time editor to expect a hostile reception from Anna, Frances daughter. So, when he arrives at the small town of Galen Missouri, Abbey and his girlfriend Saxony are taken aback by the warm enthusiastic reception they receive. The Land of Laughs is part American Fable, part Twilight zone episode. Carroll paces it at a slow burn, He lulls you into an almost sense of complacency with his normal characters and description of everyday life of small town Americana, so that when the Fantasy elements bleed into the tale you are almost unprepared for them. There is one moment, the first full on time where the otherworldliness unquestionable enters the tale, that you are just jarringly reminded that this is in fact fantasy. From the moment the cascade of unusual begins. Carroll unfolds this tale beautifully, moving each revelation into the game like a master chess player. He creates a wonderfully frustrating character in Thomas Abbey. Abbey is almost boring in his angst filled existence, and Carroll complements him with two fascinating women, one who is heartbreakingly real, and another a twisted fantasy. Most importantly, Carroll pulls it all together, offering an ending that colors the entire tale, making you reevaluate the entire story. The Land of Laughs is solid storytelling. A Tale that slowly builds, pulling the reader deeper and deeper into the tale, and then smacking them upside the head with a wonderfully delivered ending.
First off, I simply love Edoardo Ballerini voice, and I’m secure enough in my masculinity to admit it. He has such a rich modern tone, the fit this tale so well, He reads with and almost effortlessness that fully allows you to immerse yourself in the world Carroll is presenting. He brings the wide array of characters, from big city editors, to simple townsfolk alive with authenticity. There is only one little complain I have about the audiobook, and it’s not really anyone in particular’s fault. This book was written in 1980, and Ballerini’s performance was so modern, that occasionally a dated reference would bring me out of the story, for instance, the moment when I realized that the Thomas Abbey character was writing out his story longhand. Now, I’m sure this is something that may still happen, and was probably quite commonplace at the time this book was set, but, I kept forgetting as I listened that this was a production of a book over 30 years old. I guess that this is a reflection of the timeless quality Carroll achieved and the modern feel of Ballerini’s performance, and should be seen as praise and not a criticism.