Vacations are great because you can do a lot of reading. I'm listening through Joyland a second time, but have to slip away a lot when the kids aren't in the car because -- they don't get to read gobs of Stephen King. Don't argue with my parenting on this one! A great drive is really about the book, and Joyland is a fantastic summer read.
Some observations I might have missed the first time through:
1. King is really good at bring back the flavor of first love. First love is different. It's special. First love involves all those firsts. First time holding hands romantically; first kiss; first argument; first make up; first time heart broken. Devin is certainly in the throws of young (first?) love and the pain involved in the realization that it's not to be. He's going to get dumped. What's amazing is how brilliantly King captures this period of life. King does more than just describe Dev's feelings, it's the way the breakup transpires. First the distance, then the growing coldness, un-returned calls matched with the growing unease that something has changed. Of course, Wizard and Glass had plenty of young love, but that was in another world. There is something special about the summer of 1973. It's close -- very close -- to our world.
2. Was there a mistake? Here's something I didn't catch the first time through -- the Heimlich maneuver. In 1973, it hadn't been published yet. However, Devin saves a girl at Joyland using the Heimlich. He then explains that of course --as we all would know when we ran to google to check -- the maneuver's publication was yet forthcoming. But, Devin chalks it up to good training and the obvious thing to do. I wonder (I'm just wondering here) if King originally used the term directly and it was spotted in editing as a problem. King does a nice job digging his away of that small problem.
3. There are references in Joyland to Hitchcock (the carousel), Lovecraft, and Dickens. It seems Mr. Jones is well read; and his choice in movies is just fine, too.
4. That Joyland is on the brink of financial disaster is more than hinted at throughout the novel. It's a tight operation, and small theme parks don't stand a chance against the Disney giants. (Include in there Six Flags and Universal.) However, that isn't quite true. The small theme park has actually held its own over time. Of course, they have to be well run and grow with the times. A good theme park, even the small ones, are able to expand and offer new rides and attractions each season. Parks like Knotts Berry Farm, a local Anaheim amusement park right down the street from Disneyland is a wonderful smaller park. Why didn't Joyland make it? It probably had more to do with it's own lack of innovation and less to do with Disney than the management would want to admit. Though the park has heart, it is also apparent that it does not have a lot of new rides.
5. King doesn't drop too much on the reader at once. A fault of young writers is to introduce everything early on, wanting to foreshadow and build everything. But King tends to focus on different aspects of the story, like a painter working on a specific part of the canvas. He mentions the boy on the beach early in the novel, but says little more about them until the books midpoint. The early novel is focused on young love, what the theme park is like and who the various characters are who work the park. Even more surprising, King gives little more than a few hints at the "mystery" that's afoot. He tells the story of the murdered woman, which the reader knows upfront will be a major plot piece, but he doesn't play with those details too early. That's left for the late part of the novel.