Mercury Pictures Presents: A Novel (Hardcover)
August 2022 Indie Next List
“Mercury Pictures Presents is an utterly satisfying novel, full of rich characters and a beautifully choreographed plot told with wry humor, great love, and writing so smart you’ll want to underline every paragraph. Read it!”
— Kris Kleindienst, Left Bank Books, St. Louis, MO
“A genuinely moving and life-affirming novel that’s a true joy to read.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
“A great literary read.”—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
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.”
“Epically entertaining . . . It asks the big questions: What happens when the entire world is torn asunder and then remade? How do people restore themselves and find their new place? What can marginalized people—women, immigrants, people of color, refugees—do to wrest control of their own lives in the face of institutionalized discrimination? And it answers, as all good fiction does, by enthralling its readers with stories that are personal, alive and heartbreaking. . . . You’ll laugh, you’ll cry in the marvelous Mercury Pictures Presents.”—San Francisco Chronicle
“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.”—Ron Charles, Washington Post
“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.”—Celeste Ng, author of Little Fires Everywhere
“Marra has been compared to Nabokov, Kafka, and Orwell. The word 'brilliant' gets used in all his reviews. Mercury Pictures Presents runs from Mussolini's Italy to 1940s Hollywood, and is full of history, comedy, and horror. It's a great literary read.”—Ann Patchett, author of The Dutch House
“Funny, verbally inventive and, ultimately, very moving, Mercury Pictures Presents is a wonderful novel.”—Sunday Times UK, Book of the Month
“Marra has ascended to the top of the literary ranks.”—Booklist (starred review)
“A wonder—intimate and sweeping, heartfelt and satirical, one of the funniest and most moving novels I’ve read in a long time.”—Jess Walter, author of Beautiful Ruins
“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 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
“A writer of boundless talent. . . . A singularly pleasurable read—smart, sad, hilarious, and always full of heart.”—Nathan Hill, author of The Nix
“Achingly beautiful . . . You laugh, then you sigh, then you weep. . . . Extraordinary.”—Luis Alberto Urrea, bestselling author The Hummingbird’s Daughter
“I laughed aloud many times, even as I marveled.”—Aimee Bender, author of The Particular Sadness of Lemon Cake
“An energetic, wildly comical tale that’s bursting with copious historical details . . . Amid all the action and plot twists, it's also a serious examination of immigration and xenophobia, identity and impersonation, and art, propaganda and censorship . . . full of passion, energy and exuberance, just like the Hollywood world it portrays.”—BookPage