A Bookpage Best Books of 2012 pick
The enchanting story of a midwestern girl who escapes a family tragedy and is remade as a movie star during Hollywood’s golden age.
In 1920, Elsa Emerson, the youngest and blondest of three sisters, is born in idyllic Door County, Wisconsin. Her family owns the Cherry County Playhouse, and more than anything, Elsa relishes appearing onstage, where she soaks up the approval of her father and the embrace of the audience. But when tragedy strikes her family, her acting becomes more than a child¹s game of pretend.
While still in her teens, Elsa marries and flees to Los Angeles. There she is discovered by Irving Green, one of the most powerful executives in Hollywood, who refashions her as a serious, exotic brunette and renames her Laura Lamont. Irving becomes Laura’s great love; she becomes an Academy Award-winning actress—and a genuine movie star. Laura experiences all the glamour and extravagance of the heady pinnacle of stardom in the studio-system era, but ultimately her story is a timeless one of a woman trying to balance career, family, and personal happiness, all while remaining true to herself.
Ambitious and richly imagined, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is as intimate—and as bigger-than-life—as the great films of the golden age of Hollywood. Written with warmth and verve, it confirms Emma Straub’s reputation as one of the most exciting new talents in fiction.
“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
In Other People We Married, Straub creates characters as recognizable as a best friend, and follows them through moments of triumph and transformation with wit, vulnerability, and dazzling insight. In “Some People Must Really Fall in Love,” an assistant professor takes halting steps into the awkward world of office politics while harboring feelings for a freshman student. Two sisters struggle with old assumptions about each other as they stumble to build a new relationship in “A Map of Modern Palm Springs.” In “Puttanesca,” two widows move tentatively forward, still surrounded by ghosts and disappointments from the past. These twelve stories, filled with sharp humor, emotional acuity, and joyful language, announce the arrival of a major new talent.
“Emma Straub is worthy of our adoration. These stories are wise, surprising, hilarious, and unforgettable.”
—Karen Russell, author of St. Lucy’s Home for Girls Raised by Wolves and Swamplandia!
“Emma Straub is a wry, witty, incisively observant writer.”
—Dan Chaon, author of Await Your Reply
“Emma Straub’s stories mean that there are fewer lonely people in the world; they are the best kind of company. I’m giddy about their very existence, the way you get giddy when you meet someone you’d like to know for a long, long time. I look forward to knowing Emma Straub’s fiction for a long, long time.”
—Thisbe Nissen, author of The Good People of New York and Osprey Island
“Razor sharp and tenderhearted, funny and wrenching. Emma Straub’s stories take place in all the messy, fascinating, uncanny corners of contemporary relationships.”
—Kelly Link, author of Stranger Things Happen and Magic for Beginners
“Emma Straub has such a graceful, brittle, subversive voice that it takes a moment after you surface from her stories, drugged with pleasure and ringing with sharp insight, to realize how deeply she loves and understands humanity. Other People We Married is a terrific collection of stories, and Emma Straub is a joyous marvel of a writer.”
—Lauren Groff, author of The Monsters of Templeton and Delicate Edible Birds
Fly-Over State, Flatmancrooked, October 2009
Orient Point, American Short Fiction
Marjorie and the Birds, 52 Stories
Soap, Gargoyle, Issue 56, Summer 2010
Rosemary, Cousin Corinne’s Reminder, Issue 1
Puttanesca, FiveChapters, Nov. 2-6, 2009
55th and 3rd, The L Magazine, July 2009
Snowbirds, Flatmancrooked Issue 2, Spring 2009
Abraham’s Enchanted Forest, Juked, Issue 6, Winter 2008
Hot Springs Eternal, Flatmancrooked Issue 1, November 2008
Some People Must Really Fall in Love, The Saint Ann’s Review, Winter 2008
“Christmas, Over Our Dead Bodies,” The New York Times’ Townies Blog, December 2011
“Miss Piggy, Literary Icon,” The Paris Review Daily
“Teenage Dream,” Tin House, September 2011
“My Dead Boyfriend,” Rookie
“All My Real Estate Agents Have Always Been Writers,” The Paris Review Daily
“My Rayannes,” The Paris Review Daily
“Love in Bookstores,” Slate
You can also read my various thoughts for teenagers on Rookie.