Storybookland by Gareth Wilson

My brother’s oldie-but-goodie deserves a close reading

Flannery Wilson

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The amusement park Storybook Land in Oregon.
The Enchanted Forest in Turner, Oregon (artist’s own image).

Storybookland

Plastic castles six feet tall.

The animatronic band playing music in the hall.

Reality crept up oh so suddenly

It was enough to startle me

In the mirror house

At the carnival.

I took a photo from nowhere

I tried to see from no perspective.

I took two steps back so that I could be objective.

I’m the only one I’ve ever known

But my mind is not my own

I’m a forest.

I’m a field of corn.

I was bored but I couldn’t sleep.

I can’t feel the wind but I feel the heat.

I was reading fairytales in my bed.

Baby baby she lost her head.

2X

This song is trippy, and one of the great things about it is its structure. Rather than progress through the typical verse-chorus-verse-chorus pattern, it progresses as verse-verse-chorus-chorus. The transition halfway through the song is unexpected, and it resolves into a Paul McCartney-esque melodic coda.

The lyrics recount the story of someone wandering in a grotesque amusement park, one step removed from reality. The castles are tiny, the animatronic band plays the same songs on a continuous loop, and the mirror house distorts any rational perspective.

It recalls the first Canto of Dante’s Inferno, in which the pilgrim loses the straightforward path and finds himself in “a forest dark”:

I cannot well repeat how there I entered

So full was I of slumber

At the moment in which I had abandoned the true way.

In the song’s second verse, the narrator tries to ground himself in an objective perspective by taking a photo from “nowhere”, but comes to the terrifying realization that his mind is not his own. He is a part of the landscape.

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Flannery Wilson

Flannery has a PhD in Comparative Literature. She teaches French, Italian, and visual media. Her book on Taiwanese cinema can be found on Amazon.