Weekend reading: Joyland

When it comes to the past, everyone writes fiction.” — Devin Jones in Joyland

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It’s been a stressful week and as a result, I am feeling a bit under the weather with a slight fever and a swollen throat. So I decided to slow down and spend most of the weekend where I like spending my free time — in “other worlds than this” (Jake, The Dark Tower). Had picked up this book a week or so back and I’m now halfway through it.

I’ll call it now, even though I’m only approaching the halfway point on this one — this is one of the best books he’s produced in years. I think right up there with what I consider his best: Different Seasons (specifically “The Body”), It, The Stand, The Talisman, the first three novels of The Dark Tower series and some of his latter works. Like his best work, this is more a character study than pure outright horror, which he doesn’t really write much of, come to think of it. And how is it that he can tap into that rich well of childhood/young adulthood fears and insecurities so well? That’s a rhetorical question, of course.

Anyway, bare bones synopsis: Joyland is about a young man’s experience working for a carnival during his college break. Like most of King’s best work, it’s a coming-of-age novel.

Here’s an excerpt — which could actually be a manifesto for anyone working in the service/entertainment industry:

This is a badly broken world, full of wars and cruelty and senseless tragedy. Every human being who inhabits it is served his or her portion of unhappiness and wakeful nights. Those of you who don’t already know that will come to know it. Given such sad but undeniable facts of the human condition, you have been given a priceless gift this summer: you are here to sell fun. In exchange for the hard-earned dollars of your customers, you will parcel out happiness. Children will go home and dream of what they saw here and what they did here. I hope you will remember that when the work is hard, as it sometimes will be, or when people are rude as they often will be, or when you feel your best efforts have gone unappreciated. This is a different world, and that has its own customs and its own language…

I hope you’ll enjoy your work here, but when you don’t… try to remember how privileged you are. In a sad and dark world, we are a little island of happiness… We don’t sell furniture. We don’t sell cars. We don’t sell land or houses or retirement funds. We have no political agenda. We sell fun. Never forget that. Now go forth.”

When King is on a roll, he’s on a roll.