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—David Higham Associates, 5-8 Lower John St., Golden Square, London W1R 4HA, England.
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, University of Virginia, 1972; "Book of the Year" citation, Washington Post, 1983, for Voice of Our Shadow; World Fantasy Award, 1988; British Fantasy Award, 1991; Bram Stoker Award, Horror Writers of America, 1996, for best collection.
The Land of Laughs, Viking (New York, NY), 1980, Orb (New York, NY), 2002.
Voice of Our Shadow, Viking (New York, NY), 1983.
Bones of the Moon, Century (London, England), 1987, Arbor House (New York, NY), 1988.
Sleeping in Flame, Legend (London, England), 1988, Doubleday (New York, NY), 1989, 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), 2003.
Glass Soup, Tor (New York, NY), 2005.
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 fantastic 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." "Writing in a post-genre environment," explained Locus contributor Gary K. Wolfe, Carroll is "under no constraint to provide a univalent rationale for his proliferation of anomalies; he might introduce angels or aliens as stage managers, but it doesn't really matter much because we're always aware that the real manipulator is Carroll himself, seeing what he can do with the detritus of the old literary conventions of the fantastic." Locus reviewer Gary K. Wolfe elaborated further in a review of White Apples: "Since his very first novel … he's treated genres not so much as structuring principles or formulas, but as deep pockets full of colorful tiles which he can rearrange at will into the mosaics that are his stories. This is one reason that his work is both hypnotically attractive and confusing to genre readers."
Writing in the St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, an essayist explained the narrative strategy of Carroll's supernatural novels. His novels "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, writing in 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 cliches 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 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," wrote the essayisy, "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."
The Marriage of Sticks follows Miranda Romanac throughout her troubled middle-aged and older love life, which she comes to realize after two of her lovers die, has been cursed by her unknown, magically evil nature. "Carroll realizes characters and settings superbly and propels the story forward compellingly," Ray Olson commented in Booklist, and a Publishers Weekly critic wrote that "Carroll often startles with the deftness of his insights, both personal and metaphysical, and there are many lines that, for their poetry, one wants to cut out and frame."
The Wooden Sea is another surrealist novel that defies easy characterization. "It's not exactly fantasy or science fiction, in spite of the fact that both God and aliens appear in the cast of characters," Bonnie Johnston explained in Booklist. The protagonist is Francis McCabe, a small-town police chief. "There is nothing like a small town to bring strangeness home," Robin Vidimos noted in the Denver Post, "and there is nothing like Carroll's direct prose to bring it to life." McCabe has a comfortable, happy existance until it is turned upside down by a series of strange coincidences and bizarre events, beginning with the death of a stray dog in his office, that Library Journal contributor Jackie Cassada deemed "by turns whimsical and disturbing." As these events are recounted, Elizabeth Hand explained in the Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, "The Wooden Sea cascades into a shimmering, often brilliant shower of strange and beautiful set pieces." "Carroll's best set piece shows McCabe watching Crane's View [his hometown] physically fast forward from the 60s to the 90s," commented a Publishers Weekly contributor.
Vincent Ettrich, the protagonist of Carroll's novel White Apples, has died and been brought back to life at the beginning of the story. His lover, Isabelle Neukor, is pregnant, and she tells him that their unborn child, Anjo, is behind his return. Beyond bringing people back from the dead, the child has many other powers as well, and it seems that fate intends him to save the universe. However, to do that he needs Vincent to tell him what Vincent learned while he was dead, but Vincent, unfortunately, is unable to remember any of it. Carroll, Don McLeese explained in Book, "uses Vincent's predicament to explore issues of free will, cosmic order and the essence of an orgasm." "The novel boasts its share of the fresh perspectives on life and love that Carroll's fans have come to expect," commented a Publishers Weekly critic, while Jackie Cassada praised Carroll's "talent for creating characters that seem both unique and familiar" in a review for the Library Journal.
Glass Soup, the sequel to White Apples, is full of "dazzling details and more twists than a bag of pretzels," noted a Kirkus Reviews contributor. This volume finds Vincent, Isabelle, and the still-unborn Anjo continuing to fight the forces of Chaos, embodied as John Flannery, a man who seduced several of Isabelle's friends and then murdered them. The tale features many of the absurdities for which Carroll's work is known—an octopus drives a tour bus; God is a mosaic made of tiles, but also Bob, a stuffed polar bear; Simon, a man who like Vincent has realized that he died but doesn't remember it, is constantly accompanied by a foot-high creature named Broximon. Glass Soup is "an ambitious retelling of the cosmic struggle between good and evil," wrote a Publishers Weekly reviewer, but also "a marvelous comic feast."
Stableford summed up Carroll's work: "By the gruesome standards of modern horror fiction Carroll is extraordinarily subtle, but that gives his work a peculiar effectiveness which is his alone. His narrative voice is original and distinctive—and quite probably inimitable—and the ruminations of his characters, however unreliable they may be as narrators, are possessed of real depth as well as endless fascination."
BIOGRAPHICAL AND CRITICAL SOURCES:
St. James Guide to Horror, Ghost and Gothic Writers, St. James Press (Detroit, MI), 1998.
Zipes, Jack, editor, The Oxford Companion to Fairy Tales, Oxford University Press (New York, NY), 2000.
Atlanta Journal-Constitution, July 1, 2001, Michael Bishop, "Wooden Sea a Zigzag Blend of the Everyday and the Absurd," p. C5.
Book, September-October, 2002, Don McLeese, review of White Apples, p. 78.
Booklist, May 1, 1994, Dennis Winters, review of From the Teeth of Angels, 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 Johnston, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 785; September 15, 2002, Whitney Scott, review of White Apples, p. 211.
Denver Post, March 4, 2001, Robin Vidimos, "Wooden Sea a Strangely Credible Adventure."
January Magazine, October, 1999, Claude Lelumière, review of The Marriage of Sticks; April, 2001, David Dalgleish, review of The Wooden Sea.
Journal of American Culture, fall, 1995, Steffen Hantke, "Deconstructing Horror: Commodities in the Fiction of Jonathan Carroll and Kathe Koja," p. 41.
Kirkus Reviews, September 15, 1996, review of The Panic Hand; July 1, 2002, review of White Apples, p. 898; July 1, 2005, review of Glass Soup, p. 713.
Library Journal, March 15, 2001, Jackie Cassada, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 110; October 15, 2002, Jackie Cassada, review of White Apples, p. 97; July 1, 2005, David Keymer, review of Glass Soup, p. 64.
Locus, May, 2001, Gary K. Wolfe, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 23; September, 2002, Gary K. Wolfe, review of White Apples, p. 17.
Magazine of Fantasy and Science Fiction, July, 1998, Charles de Lint, review of Kissing the Beehive, p. 43; April 10, 2001, Elizabeth Hand, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 30.
New Statesman and Society, May 6, 1994, Michael Moorcock, review of From the Teeth of Angels, p. 36.
Publishers Weekly, June 15, 1980, review of The Land of Laughs, p. 48; February 1, 1993, review of After Silence, p. 70; March 28, 1994, review of From the Teeth of Angels, p. 82; October 7, 1996, review of The Panic Hand, p. 60; November 10, 1997, review of Kissing the Beehive, p. 56; July 5, 1999, review of The Marriage of Sticks, p. 63; January 8, 2001, review of The Wooden Sea, p. 47; April 8, 2002, review of Bones of the Moon, p. 211; September 23, 2002, review of White Apples, p. 54; August 8, 2005, review of Glass Soup, p. 208.
Realms of Fantasy, April, 2001, review of The Wooden Sea.
St. Louis Post-Dispatch (St. Louis, MO), October 30, 2002, Dorman T. Shindler, review of White Apples, p. E3.
Times (London, England), June 26, 1999, Christina Koning, review of The Marriage of Sticks, p. 19.
Washington Post, April 25, 1983, Jack Sullivan, review of Voice of Our Shadow, p. D2.
Washington Post Book World, May 3, 1981, Jack Sullivan, review of The Land of Laughs, p. 4.
Official Jonathan Carroll Web site, http://www.jonathancarroll.com (September 2, 2005).
White Apples Web site, http:/www.whiteapples.com/ (January 9, 2003).