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Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures Hardcover – September 4, 2012


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 320 pages
  • Publisher: Riverhead Hardcover; 1 edition (September 4, 2012)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1594488452
  • ISBN-13: 978-1594488450
  • Product Dimensions: 9.1 x 6.2 x 1.1 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (86 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #953,979 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Lauren Groff and Emma Straub: Author Interview
In this Amazon exclusive, Lauren Groff, bestselling author of Arcadia and The Monsters of Templeton, interviews Emma Straub.

Lauren Groff: Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures follows the life of your title character from when she was a little girl in Wisconsin named Elsa Emerson, through her heyday as brilliant movie star Laura Lamont, and into the years after she has grown too old for the sexy roles she was once begged to play. Tell me about this decision.

Emma Straub: For me, the idea of Hollywood is so enormous and potent, so big, that I didn't want to try to pack her whole story into just one period. Laura's experience in the 1930s is so different from her experience in the 1950s, and the 1970s, that it would be a shame not to see it all. That's what I was after--all of it. Ha! That's not too ambitious, is it?

LG: Irving, Laura's beloved husband, at one point mentions off-handedly that he was late because he was talking to Greta Garbo on the phone. I felt a little jolt of electricity because until then I hadn't realized that I had been imagining Garbo in the role of Laura Lamont. I wouldn't suggest that you based this book on any one particular 1940s or 1950s actress, but who are your favorites from that time, and why?

ES: I was inspired to write the novel after reading an obituary of the actress Jennifer Jones, who would have been Laura's contemporary. After that, I stayed away from Jones, and to date haven't watched any of her films, because I really wanted the novel to be fiction, and not a thinly veiled take on her life. There are so many incredible actresses from that period-- my favorites would have to be Joan Fontaine, who gets a tiny shout-out in the book, because Laura loves her too, and maybe Gene Tierney, because she was so excellent in Laura. (Totally coincidental, I swear!)

LG: What attracted you to writing a novel about a film star of this era, as opposed to one about a contemporary movie star?

ES: We've got so little glamour nowadays--I like to read Us Weekly as much as the next girl, but because of tabloid culture there's no real mystery anymore. When a star is going through a hard time, we know all about it--when someone has a difficult pregnancy, or is getting a divorce, or is losing their mind. I wanted to go back to when people had privacy. Also, one of the aspects of Hollywood that I was interested in was the studio system, in which actors had very little power. I like to think that women movie stars today have more agency than Laura would have had.

LG: What kind of research did you do for this book?

ES: I did the best kind of research--my husband and I did a house swap with a woman in Los Angeles, and so I spent a month sitting by the pool, soaking up all the Californian air. Well, in reality, I spent much of my time reading books at the Margaret Herrick Library, which is operated by the Academy of Motion Pictures. They have every book ever written about the history of Hollywood, and biographies of every movie star, and microfilms of all the fan magazines. I was in heaven. And, of course, I spent a lot of time watching old movies!

LG: This novel is about many things, but I found that the deepest drama was in how Laura balances her real life--children, marriage, money, friends, grief, love--with her career. What prompted you to write a meditation about balance?

ES: I think one of the ways that we misunderstand, or misread, other humans is by thinking about them as operating on only a single plane. I wanted to write about a woman's whole life--that is, her love life, her family life, her work life, her friendships. My hope is that by showing all of those things, the reader will really understand who Laura is in a very deep way. Balance is so tricky, I think, especially for women. Even for a movie star.

LG: I had to laugh a little when I noticed that Laura leaves rural Wisconsin for the far more cosmopolitan Los Angeles to become a star, because your trajectory as a writer was the exact opposite: you left New York City, where you were raised, to go to Madison, Wisconsin for your MFA in fiction. How do you see acting and writing--both creative pursuits--either intersecting or standing in opposition to one another?

ES: What my mother would tell you is that all of the most interesting people are from Wisconsin. On the outside, writing and acting seem like they would require opposite temperaments, but I don't know if that's true. I think, for both pursuits, you need a deep curiosity about how human beings work. The main difference, I suppose, is that one is public and the other private, and clearly it seems preferable to choose the option that lets you stay home with the cats.

Review

"At once iconic and specific, Emma Straub's beautifully observed first novel explores the fraught trajectory of what has become a staple of the American dream:  the hunger for stardom and fame.  Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures affords an intimate, epic view of how that dream ricochets through one American life." – Jennifer Egan, author of A Visit from the Goon Squad

"Emma Straub is a magician, full of  brilliance and surprise."— Lorrie Moore

"An exquisite debut novel that brings Depression-era Hollywood to life with startling immediacy. Laura Lamont is a memorable character, and Emma Straub illuminates her inner life with uncanny authority."— Tom Perrotta, author of The Leftovers and Little Children

“I absolutely loved this tale of one woman's incredible journey from small town girl to movie star. Straub brings Old Hollywood fully to life, in all its glamour, excess, ruthlessness, and beauty. I didn't want this marvelous novel to end.”— J. Courtney Sullivan, author of Commencement and Maine

“Fantastic…a stunningly intimate portrayal of one woman's life.”—Entertainment Weekly

“Straub’s brisk pacing and emotionally complex characters keep the story fresh…This bewitching novel is ultimately a celebration of those moments when we drop the act and play the hardest role of all: ourselves.”—O, The Oprah Magazine

“[A] timeless tale with true heartfelt warmth throughout…one of the most entertaining novels this fall.”—Matchbook Magazine

“delightful… mesmerizing.”—The Miami Herald

“at once a delicious depiction of Hollywood’s golden age and a sweet, fulfilling story about one woman’s journey through fame, love, and loss.”—Boston Globe

“Straub makes masterful use of the golden age of Hollywood to tap contemporary questions about the price of celebrity and a working mother’s struggle to balance all that matters.”—People

“Straub vividly recaptures the glamour and meticulously contrived mythology of the studio-system era.”—USA Today

“big-hearted…a witty examination of the psychic costs of reinvention in Hollywood’s golden age.”—The Washington Post

“[With] effortless prose and precise observations…Straub's novel explores themes of identity, career and motherhood through the filter of one woman's life experience…an entertaining narrative.”-San Francisco Chronicle

Laura Lamont might be the most anticipated debut of the year. It's easy to understand the hullabaloo; Straub's style is clear and engaging, and her plot balances the glamour of the Hollywood Golden Age with trenchant thematic links to issues of contemporary working women. The result is a delightful, entertaining read with substance.”—Minneapolis Star Tribune

“Like the protagonist in her new novel, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures, Emma Straub is a rising star.”—TimeOut Chicago

“Will appeal to any girl who has left a small town behind to follow her dreams to the big city.”—­Marie Claire

“Dramatic, human and historical: like a classic Hollywood movie…Straub knows when to linger and when to be brief, and her portrayal of Elsa/Laura’s relationships is exquisite…Peppered with stunningly crafted sentences and heart-twisting storytelling, the richness of this full life is portrayed with perceptive clarity.”—BUST Magazine

“Straub imbues her writing with surprising insights and wit… [her] writing reminds the reader how good literary fiction can precisely capture the human experience.”—Pop Matters

More About the Author

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Customer Reviews

Her prose is dazzling and her characters complex and beautifully drawn.
hearttwoheart
The way Straub writes about Elsa/Laura's first few years in Hollywood really make the book something more than just a "small-town-girl-makes-good" story.
Amy
There was little character development and I found I really did not care about any of them.
Andrea L. Cruz

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

44 of 50 people found the following review helpful By Ms Winston TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on August 18, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
As I indicated in the title, I wanted so much to like this book but I just struggled to finish it. It was not a difficult read, but it was rather a boring one. Small town girl goes to Hollywood during the days of the Depression and ends up making it big in pictures -- the book follows her career and her marriages up through the early 1980's, but is just lackluster. Yes, the author is familiar with contract players and the old studio system (and how it changed), but as far as I am concerned she never brought the characters to life. Laura was frankly not particularly interesting and her marriages just seemed more like something out of a made-for-television movie for "Lifetime." If Laura brought magic to the screen, as the author suggests, she did not bring magic to the book. And I expected to be treated to long dead actors and actresses who were actually alive and making films during that time period, while for the most part what we got instead were mentions of them. I just found the book rather odd -- there was no real plot, just episodes that happened in different decades of Laura's life and career strung together. Not a terrible novel, just more a disappointing one.
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32 of 40 people found the following review helpful By Susan K. Schoonover VINE VOICE on July 29, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
I was predisposed to like the new novel LAURA LAMONT'S LIFE IN PICTURES as the Old Hollywood setting is very appealing to me. And while the story of "Laura Lamont" hits all the usual Tinsel Town notes of failed marriages, drug addiction, corrupt studio bosses,jealousy, mental illness and suicide attempts the book is not only unoriginal but surprisingly not very compelling.

Laura was born Elsa in the resort area of Door County, Wisconsin in the 1920's. Her parents ran a small theater company there and the tragic death of her sister left a lasting impact on her life. As a teenager Elsa/Laura meets and marries another young actor in the company and together they take off for LA to try and conquer the movies. After two children the marriage ends unhappily and Elsa is taken under the wing of a studio executive who changes her name to Laura Lamont, rewrites her history and marries her. An Academy Award soon follows for Laura but also lots of setbacks and angst. The story ends with her returning to her roots in live theater.

Elsa/Laura and the other characters she encounters never really came alive for me and despite the sensational setting the book is quite dull. "Laura Lamont" is decently written though some strange choices in sentence structure sometimes make it more difficult to comprehend than necessary. The author hints at large themes but never really explores them. The book falls somewhere between a three and a four rating but became so tedious to read especially toward the end I am rounding down to a three.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Diana F. Von Behren TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on September 10, 2012
Format: Hardcover Vine Customer Review of Free Product ( What's this? )
In "Laura Lamont's Life in Pictures," author Emma Straub tells the story of Laura Lamont, Hollywood star, from her early days in her father's small Minnesota theater through her ups and downs in the studios of California, to her eventual comeback in her later years on Broadway. Laura's tale of motion picture success could be that of any quintessential starlet--or it could be based on a favorite screen goddess (or a composite of many) from Hollywood's golden era pantheon. Whatever Straub's intention, she presents her main character in the three-way mirror of her ambition and her desire for love in a straightforward story line that does indeed tell a chronological tale. Unfortunately, Straub's portrayal of Lamont and her so-called glamorous life waxes anemic rather than exciting and tinsel-shiny; Elsa/Laura seems nothing more than a frail leaf caught up in a studio wind of which she has no control. Not endowed with true grit, or femme fatalism, she simply simpers and we, as the reading audience, don't cheer for her or feel vindicated as she rides out her eventual downward spiral to other, smaller triumphs. Instead we fall prey to reading on, hoping the story will get better while ultimately descending into a rather boring "Big Sleep" of mediocrity.

Straub goes out of her way to describe Elsa's background--the history of her family, her sisters' influence and her mother's hard knuckle approach to anything she doesn't understand. When Elsa becomes Laura, hitting upon success after success once she is noticed by a studio head, the prose is so flat and emotionless that the reader is barely moved to even celebrate along with what should be genuine enthusiasm for someone who has had the will and has found the way.
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14 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Enzi on September 17, 2012
Format: Hardcover
Based on Entertainment Weekly's ecstatic review, I was primed to love this book. Too bad. I found it listless and kind of pointless. Elsa/Laura goes through the motions of a life without much in the way of emotion or reflection. Not much of big historical importance (WW2, Viet Nam Draft, TV's move from B&W to Color, the relaxation of the Hays Code which allowed swearing and nudity) gets much attention even when it would have imposed on her family's life.
Further, Ms. Straub would have done well to have an older proof reader to help her avoid such current anomalies as "wellness center" among others. If you want a real movie star memoir from this period, Mary Astor wrote the best one. She was oblivious and morally blind in ways this author isn't mature enough to even imagine. This book is just straight ahead bland.
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