Is there such a thing as an innocent theme park these days? Michael Cunningham's Specimen Days, which I read a few weeks ago, is only one of the many dystopian fictions that imagine entire cities or even countries transformed into the equivalent of Disneyland. (Julian Barnes' England, England, which is on my "to read" list, is probably the best-known recent literary example.) This satirical/dystopian invocation of theme parks runs parallel to the similarly satirical/dystopian invocation of the Internet, as in Jennifer Egan's Look at Me.* No doubt Jean Baudrillard has something to do with this. (And, of course, Disneyland is apparently everywhere.) But how often do you find fictional examples of theme parks as a source of simple pleasure? Maybe it's symptomatic that I can't remember the title (!) of the only example that comes to mind: a short story in one of the Year's Best Fantasy and Horror collections, in which the predatory protagonist spouts the Baudrillardian line about theme parks and reality, while the cartoonish park itself turns out to be a place of genuine love and safety for the girl he's trying to destroy.
*--Geoff Ryman's Air; Or, Have Have Not, which imagines the next phase of the Internet, is an exception to the trend that represents the 'net as dehumanizing; for Ryman's characters, Air--even in its commodification of peasant culture--offers possibilities for developing entirely new ways of living.