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Carroll, Jonathan 1949–

Carroll, Jonathan 1949–

PERSONAL: Born January 26, 1949, in New York, NY; son of Sidney (a screenwriter) and June (an actress and lyricist; maiden name, Sillman) Carroll; married Beverly Schreiner (an artist), June 19, 1971; children: Ryder Pierce. Education: Rutgers University, B.A. (cum laude), 1971; University of Virginia, M.A., 1973.

ADDRESSES: Home—Vienna, Austria. Agent—c/o Author Mail, Tor/St. Martin's Press, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

CAREER: Writer. North State Academy, Hickory, NC, English teacher, 1971–72; St. Louis Country Day School, St. Louis, MO, English teacher, 1973–74; American International School, Vienna, Austria, English teacher, 1974–.

AWARDS, HONORS: Emily Clark Balch fellowship in creative writing at University of Virginia, 1972; Washington Post Book of the Year citation, 1983, for Voice of Our Shadow; World Fantasy Award, 1988; British Fantasy Award, 1992; Bram Stoker Award, Horror Writers of America, 1995, for best collection; Imaginaire Award, 2000.

WRITINGS:

NOVELS

The Land of Laughs, Viking (New York, NY), 1980, reprinted, Orb (New York, NY), 2001.

Voice of Our Shadow, Viking (New York, NY), 1983.

Bones of the Moon, Century (London, England), 1987, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1988, reprinted, Orb (New York, NY), 2002.

Sleeping in Flame, Legend (London, England), 1988, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989, reprinted, Tor (New York, NY), 2004.

A Child across the Sky, Legend (London, England), 1989, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1990.

Black Cocktail, illustrated by Dave McKean, Legend (London, England), 1990, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1991.

Outside the Dog Museum, Macdonald (London, England), 1991, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1992.

After Silence, Macdonald (London, England), 1992, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1993.

From the Teeth of Angels, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1994.

Kissing the Beehive, N.A. Talese/Doubleday (New York, NY), 1998.

The Marriage of Sticks, Tor (New York, NY), 1999.

The Heidelberg Cylinder, Mobius New Media (Wilmington, DE), 2000.

The Wooden Sea, Tor (New York, NY), 2001.

White Apples, Tor (New York, NY), 2002.

OTHER

The Panic Hand (story collection), HarperCollins (London, England), 1995, St. Martin's Press (New York, NY), 1996.

Also author of screenplays, including The Joker. Contributor of short stories to periodicals, including Transatlantic Review, Sport, Cimarron Review, Folio, Christian Science Monitor, and Four Quarters, and of book reviews to St. Louis Globe-Democrat and Cleveland Plain Dealer.

SIDELIGHTS: Jonathan Carroll has received critical plaudits for his novels of the supernatural. According to Michael Moorcock, writing in the New Statesman and Society, "Carroll's books are dangerous. He takes considerable risks and trusts his readers with the nerve and intelligence to follow him. He's a moral visionary whose sturdy, subtle plots are rooted in character, a profound liking for people, a relish for life. Yet he writes about active evil. He uses supernatural fiction to comment upon that evil." Reviewing 1999's The Marriage of Sticks, for Booklist, Ray Olsen noted that "Carroll realizes characters and settings superbly and propels the story forward compellingly," while a Publishers Weekly critic praised the author's prose as "poetic and magical, dense with a wonderful strangeness reminiscent of Fellini and urgent with inklings of horror."

Writing in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, Brian Stableford explained the narrative strategy of Carroll's supernatural novels. His books, noted Stableford, "are set in a distinctive narrative space whose deceptively close resemblances to the reader's world usually break down with the abrupt introduction of some unexpected fantastic motif. These unceremonious intrusions of the supernatural can seem jarring, although they often serve the purpose of rendering brutally explicit a creeping but numinous unease which has possessed the plot since its inception. Carroll has standardized a strategy whereby his books grip the reader with their easy narrative manner and sentimental accounts of rewarding emotional relationships, then spring transformative narrative ambushes which remove everything into a new and exotic context."

Jack Sullivan of the Washington Post Book World heralded Carroll's first book, The Land of Laughs, as a "beguiling and original novel." Elaborating that Carroll "deftly avoids the clichés of contemporary occult fiction," the critic also observed that the author's "descriptions of his small-town Missouri setting are charming and paradoxically down-to-earth; his characters are engaging, sweet-natured antiquarian oddballs; and his sense of humor is nicely attuned to his fantastic subject matter." Sullivan noted, however, that this "whimsical fantasy" soon develops into a "malevolent horror … full of startling juxtapositions and surprises." In a more recent Washington Post review, Sullivan called The Land of Laughs "probably the most imaginative supernatural novel in ten years."

Carroll explained his purpose in writing The Land of Laughs in a Publishers Weekly interview. "I have tried to show," he disclosed, "that in literature as well as in life, the very things that delight us may well turn around and hurt or scare us, unendingly."

In A Child across the Sky, Carroll tells the story of a filmmaker who searches for lost footage from a horror film made by a deceased friend. He is accompanied by his friend's imaginary playmate from childhood, who has now come to life and claims to be an angel. A Child across the Sky, explained Stableford, "is the most complicated of Carroll's works, and the most nakedly horrific; the conscientiously nasty-minded double-twist ending is the most effective of all his climaxes."

From the Teeth of Angels finds four characters confronted by and struggling with the Angel of Death, who appears to them in ominous dreams. "Carroll writes with grace and style," noted Dennis Winters in Booklist, "weaving the different strands of his story to their frightening shared climax." Moorcock found that, as the story draws to a close, "we come to realise we have been experiencing a struggle between good and evil as monumental as anything in Milton."

Noting that Carroll's idiosyncratic fiction has gained a loyal following among British and European readers, a Publishers Weekly contributor maintained that while he "has yet to achieve commesurate stature on his native shore," novels such as 2001's The Wooden Sea would likely attract a greater audience in the United States. In the novel, small-town police chief Frannie McCabe adopts an old stray, only to have the animal die shortly thereafter. When the dead dog turns up in the trunk of a car examined during an across-town police investigation, it sparks a series of surreal connections that ultimately find McCabe confronting his teenaged self and aiding an otherwordly entity solve the puzzle of the universe. "This delightfully eerie story eschews all small-town stereotypes and eludes categorization," wrote Booklist contributor Bonnie Johnson, while the Publishers Weekly critic dubbed The Wooden Sea "wonderfully offbeat."

In Carroll's 2002 novel, White Apples, Vincent Ettrich, a divorced philanderer, is summoned back from the dead by his unborn son. It seems Vincent has information about the afterlife essential to maintaining a harmonious balance in the universe. Trouble is, he cannot remember what it is. Vincent struggles to recall what he is supposed to know while dodging agents of chaos determined to stop him. Don McLeese, reviewing White Apples in Book, noted that "linear logic means little in the imaginative world of Carroll" and that the author's "speculative fables not only resist categorization, they defy paraphrase." A Publishers Weekly critic described White Apples as "a classic Carroll romp in which personified states of mind achieve independent life, characters interact with quirky incarnations of aspects of themselves, and bizarre metaphors ('When you're dead they teach you how to make a water sandwich') are illuminatingly literalized." In Library Journal, Jackie Cassada wrote of Carroll's "simple yet powerful prose," citing in particular "his talent for creating characters that seem both unique and familiar."

BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:

BOOKS

St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost, and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.

PERIODICALS

Book, September-October, 2002, p. 78.

Booklist, May 1, 1994, p. 1581; December 15, 1997, Ted Leventhal, review of Kissing the Beehive, p. 685; August, 1999, Ray Olson, review of The Marriage of Sticks, p. 2038; December 15, 2000, Bonnie Johnson, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 795; September 15, 2002, p. 211.

Library Journal, March 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 110; October 15, 2002, p. 97.

New Statesman and Society, May 6, 1994, p. 36.

Publishers Weekly, June 15, 1980; February 1, 1993, p. 70; March 28, 1994, p. 82; October 7, 1996, p. 60; November 10, 1997, p. 56; July 5, 1999, p. 63; January 8, 2001, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 47; September 23, 2002, p. 54.

Washington Post, April 25, 1983.

Washington Post Book World, May 3, 1981.

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