jonathan carroll’s books are like gourmet jellybeans. even his shittiest flavors are better than most regular jellybeans, and who doesn’t like jellybeans? (alfonso claims that only white people eat jellybeans, which is untrue, but it’s such an odd racial stereotype i feel compelled to add it here).
you know how there is some music that no matter what mood you are in, it just happens to be the right music?? jonathan carroll is like that for me. he’s just…wonderful, like a new crush you can’t stop gushing over. he’s definitely a high fabulist, but in the best sense of the term. let’s compare: better than graham joyce, more charming than millhauser, slightly less ambitious than robertson davies, but always always entertaining. i would name-drop alasdair gray, but so few people have read him, it’s not even worth it. stop reading this review and go read lanark, already…
jonathan carroll can be summed up in two words: death and dogs.
not your gritty noir alsatians snarling over an abandoned corpse, but generally affable dogs involved in some way in a character’s meditations or experiences with death and what comes next: bull terriers who are either sentient or symbolic, but are carroll’s literary stamp as recognizable as any of lynch’s recurring visual details/tics.
carroll has a few major themes; mostly ideas of life and death and karma and the afterlife and man’s responsibilities to man and woman and ghosts and film. they are philosophical/moral/spiritual journey stories but in a playful, not didactic way. “spiritual journey” should in no way conjure up images of coelho, redfield, or martel. take those thoughts to go, please.
land of laughs is a really good introduction to jonathan carroll. the ending? shrug, not the best, in my opinion. but it honestly does not matter, because it’s such an incredible story throughout. his endings are pretty consistently weak, but it almost becomes an adorable quirk, like when kids can’t say “spaghetti” or something that people think it is cute when kids do.
at the end of the day, he is just a good storyteller, and like the opening credits for amazing stories, isn’t that the foundation our littry appreciation should be built upon?