Tuesday, September 11, 2012

Everything You Wanted to Know About Emma Straub's Rich New Novel, "Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures", Such as The Fact She's Coming to Boswell on Tuesday, September 18.

The next two days are very complicated for us, with two substantial events each day to juggle. Today is Dwyane Wade and Terry Brooks; tomorrow is Zane and Jonathan Evison. So am I going to exhaust you in the blog the way I did yesterday, by throwing it out there? No, I’m going to exhort you to read a new book that just came out that is for an event next week. Always thinking ahead!

I’ve been reading a lot of event books this fall. I wish I could read all of them. But when I do, I’m usually reading the book following the booking. What’s been nice about several of our fiction titles is that we had our first read before the event was book, but in all cases, that was not me. Mel read Jonathan Evison’s Revised Fundamentals of Caregiving in advance of the booking. Sharon had read and enjoyed Emily St. John Mandel’s The Lola Quartet (Saturday, September 15, 7 pm) in before we knew Mandel was thinking of coming to town. And Conrad and Jason put Michael Ennis’s The Malice of Fortune (Monday, September 17, 7 pm) on our radar not just before the tour, but even before the book was bought by Doubleday for American publication.

But in the case of Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, I was the first reader, thought I think Stacie has recommended the stories, Other People We Married. And I originally read it because our sales rep Joe told me to. I knew there was a bit of a local connection. And I had a loyalty to Emma Straub, a fellow bookseller. I thought, even if another store winds up hosting, we’ll want to get on board with this title. Or maybe we’ll share it.

So I started reading, and I thought, “Well, this is very nice.” I’ll let Sharon tell you a bit about the story. Here’s her rec:

“This story begins in Door County, Wisconsin in 1920. Elsa Emerson is the youngest of three daughters, and her parents run a playhouse. She dreams of becoming a movie actress, and she marries and runs away to Los Angeles while still very young. She is discovered and becomes a star named Laura Lamont. The atmosphere of old Hollywood is certainly intoxicating, but I didn't really appreciate Laura until things started to go south for her. Then, the reader learns what strength Laura possesses, and can appreciate her as a person, and not just a glamorous actress.” (Sharon)

And like Sharon, it all snapped into place. I saw how everything fit together, what Straub was trying to do, and I fell in love.

“From a young age, Elsa Emerson didn’t just dream of becoming a famous actress; she was certain it would happen. A family tragedy doesn’t get in her way, but simply gives her more drive to escape, sending her to Hollywood, a new name, and an Oscar-winning performance. But in Straub’s first novel, the end of the story isn’t about the Hollywood finish, but about life beyond, with all the personal loose ends left unraveled in the pursuit of fame. What could be period melodrama becomes a fascinating and fully-realized exercise in literary character, with a missing person driving the plot, and a main character who lives her life as if she’s playing a part.” (Daniel)

I find myself again and again comparing the book to Curtis Sittnefeld’s American Wife in the way both authors tried to take an iconic figure and imagine her from the inside out, all her motivations and insecurities in full display.

I’m really looking forward to this event on Tuesday, September 18, 7 pm, and plan to let everyone know about how much I enjoyed Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures.

Don’t believe me? You know I’ve got an arsenal of help to convince you to read the book (and come help us celebrate the book’s release).

Publishers Weekly calls it “An engaging epic of a life that captures the bittersweetness of growing up, leaving home, and finding it again.”

Jackie Reitzes in Fiction Writers Review found the novel “refreshing” and I like this insight: “The novel reads like a love letter to old Hollywood. As in the stories of Other People, marriage is a central theme, and the tenor of Straub’s prose is understatedly romantic—both Laura’s relationship with her second husband and her relationship to acting—without being treacly.”

Pamela Newton in Oprah’s O Magazine: “While the plot may sound familiar, Straub's brisk pacing and emotionally complex characters keep the story fresh.”

The A- review from Entertainment Weekly put the novel on the week’s “must list” for its “ stunningly intimate portrayal of one woman's life.”

Jennifer Sky interviews Straub in Interview magazine.

And of course the book is featured in the Los Angeles Times, in this Q&A with Carolyn Kellogg.

Assorted goodies from the Tumblr feed Hope you don't mind me showing your beautiful fake movie posters.

But so far, I’m having trouble finding traditional newspaper reviews to link to. That doesn’t make me happy—Michael Chabon and Zadie Smith, don’t be so greedy and take all the reviews. You should share with your friend Emma!

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