Reviews of Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra

Mercury Pictures Presents

A Novel

by Anthony Marra

Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra X
Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra
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  • Published:
    Aug 2022, 432 pages

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Book Summary

The epic tale of a brilliant woman who must reinvent herself to survive, moving from Mussolini's Italy to 1940s Los Angeles—a timeless story of love, deceit, and sacrifice from the award-winning, New York Times bestselling author of A Constellation of Vital Phenomena

Like many before her, Maria Lagana has come to Hollywood to outrun her past. Born in Rome, where every Sunday her father took her to the cinema instead of church, Maria immigrates with her mother to Los Angeles after a childhood transgression leads to her father's arrest.

Fifteen years later, on the eve of America's entry into World War II, Maria is an associate producer at Mercury Pictures, trying to keep her personal and professional lives from falling apart. Her mother won't speak to her. Her boss, a man of many toupees, has been summoned to Washington by congressional investigators. Her boyfriend, a virtuoso Chinese American actor, can't escape the studio's narrow typecasting. And the studio itself, Maria's only home in exile, teeters on the verge of bankruptcy.

Over the coming months, as the bright lights go dark across Los Angeles, Mercury Pictures becomes a nexus of European émigrés: modernist poets trying their luck as B-movie screenwriters, once-celebrated architects becoming scale-model miniaturists, and refugee actors finding work playing the very villains they fled. While the world descends into war, Maria rises through a maze of conflicting politics, divided loyalties, and jockeying ambitions. But when the arrival of a stranger from her father's past threatens Maria's carefully constructed façade, she must finally confront her father's fate—and her own.

Written with intelligence, wit, and an exhilarating sense of possibility, Mercury Pictures Presents spans many moods and tones, from the heartbreaking to the ecstatic. It is a love letter to life's bit players, a panorama of an era that casts a long shadow over our own, and a tour de force by a novelist whose work The Washington Post calls "a flash in the heavens that makes you look up and believe in miracles."

Sunny Siberia
1

When you entered the executive offices of Mercury Pictures International, you would first see a scale model of the studio itself. Artie Feldman, co-founder and head of production, installed it in the lobby to distract skittish investors from second thoughts. Complete with back lot, sound stages, and facilities buildings, the miniature was a faithful replica of the ten-acre studio in which it sat. Maria Lagana, as rendered by the miniaturist, was a tiny, featureless figure looking out Artie's office window. And this was where the real Maria stood late one morning in 1941, hands holstered on her hips, watching a pigeon autograph the windshield of her boss's new convertible. She'd like to buy that bird a drink.

"It's a beautiful day out, Art," Maria said. "You should really come have a look."

"I have," Artie said. "It made me want to jump."

Artie wasn't known for his joie de vivre, but he usually didn't fantasize about ending it all this close to lunch. Maria wondered ...

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Reviews

Media Reviews

San Francisco Chronicle
Epically entertaining ... You'll laugh, you'll cry in the marvelous Mercury Pictures Presents.

The Washington Post
Marra unspools this period comedy with so much old-time snappy wit that Mercury Pictures Presents should come with popcorn and a 78-ounce Coke. But then, suddenly, the scene shifts to a far darker era — the first in a series of maneuvers indicating the thin membrane separating humor and horror in this novel.... What matters, ultimately, is Marra's ear for catching the subtle grace notes in ordinary people's lives. If reading Mercury Pictures Presents sometimes feels like watching several movies simultaneously, you can trust that the novel will eventually resolve into focus with a moment of radical compassion that emits no more noise than a sigh.

Sunday Times (UK), Book of the Month
Funny, verbally inventive and, ultimately, very moving, Mercury Pictures Presents is a wonderful novel.

Booklist (starred review)
[Anthony] Marra has ascended to the top of the literary ranks.

Publishers Weekly
While Marra's pleasure in the details and argot of the past occasionally feels like overkill, this tough-minded, funny outing exemplifies what Maria calls the democratic promise of 'the miniaturist's gaze,' in which 'all were worthy.' Thanks to Marra, the pleasure is contagious.

Author Blurb Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
Marra brings his considerable gifts for scope and scene to early Hollywood, animating, as he does so thrillingly, the city, the players, the war, and the repercussions of small and huge actions on families, fates, countries, and film. And: this fully-realized world is also really funny! I laughed aloud many times, even as I marveled.

Author Blurb Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
Crackling with wit and suffused with insight, Anthony Marra's new novel is as epic in sweep as a movie set yet delineates the inner workings of the human heart with a miniaturist's precision. Mercury Pictures Presents explores the endless give-and-take between life and art, the cost of integrity, and the ways we must make peace with the past in order to move toward the future... A genuinely moving and life-affirming novel that's a true joy to read.

Author Blurb Jess Walter, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins and The Angel of Rome
Mercury Pictures Presents is a wonder—intimate and sweeping, heartfelt and satirical, one of the funniest and most moving novels I've read in a long time. A story of fascism, war, and refugees finding freedom through art and storytelling, it's both a joy to read and highly relevant to our times.

Author Blurb Luis Urrea, bestselling author of The Devil's Highway and The Hummingbird's Daughter
Achingly beautiful ... You laugh, then you sigh, then you weep... Extraordinary.

Author Blurb Nathan Hill, bestselling author of The Nix
Anthony Marra is a writer of boundless talent: He is a top-notch historian, a razor-sharp social critic, a deeply sensitive psychologist, and an exuberant satirist—all at the same time... A singularly pleasurable read—smart, sad, hilarious, and always full of heart.

Author Blurb Sally Mann, author of Hold Still, finalist for the National Book Award
A novel so rich and wondrous, written with such grace and wit, that there's only one word for Anthony Marra: genius.

Author Blurb Sara Nović, author of Girl at War and True Biz
Smart, heartfelt, and sneakily funny, Mercury Pictures Presents has all the breadth and power of an epic and the attention to detail of an intimate conversation. I read it in a state of admiration for the beauty Marra has wrung from the English language.

Reader Reviews

Laxman Shrikonda

The World War II Hollywood setting is colorful.
An ambitious young Italian woman makes her way among the émigrés of 1930s and ’40s Hollywood. Maria Lagana has come to Los Angeles after her father is sentenced to confino—internal exile—for his anti-fascist advocacy in Mussolini’s Italy. Living ...   Read More

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