Mercury Pictures Presents: A Novel (Hardcover)
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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 facade, 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.”
“Achingly beautiful . . . You laugh, then you sigh, then you weep. . . . Extraordinary.”—Luis Urrea, bestselling author of The Devil’s Highway and The Hummingbird’s Daughter
“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.”—Nathan Hill, bestselling author of The Nix
“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.”—Jess Walter, #1 New York Times bestselling author of Beautiful Ruins and The Angel of Rome
“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.”—Sara Nović, author of Girl at War and True Biz
“A novel so rich and wondrous, written with such grace and wit, that there’s only one word for Anthony Marra: genius.”—Sally Mann, author of Hold Still, finalist for the National Book Award
“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.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
“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.”—Aimee Bender, The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake