ONE for those hipster girls who use vintage powder compacts and do their hair in victory rolls, this gentle novel of Old Hollywood follows the heady rise and… well, gentle levelling-off of a studio starlet who comes to prominence in the movie-mad 1930s.
Laura Lamont’s Life In Pictures
One couldn’t exactly call it a rise and fall, since Laura Lamont – born humble Elsa Emerson of Door County, Wisconsin – manages her quota of slings and arrows with a dependable mildness that makes this less of a potboiler than a gently simmering soup.
Emma Straub has a talent for unfussy but evocative description: clearly a diligent researcher, she fills out the satin-draped chambers and arc-lit sound stages of this world with loving care. Some little errors suggest a less than careful edit, which is a shame considering Straub’s evident investment in the precision of her language (even if you’re one of those hooligans who believes that “nonplussed” has reversed its meaning now, in the 1940s it sure as hell still meant “dumbfounded”, not “unfazed”). But Straub none the less shows herself as a confident storyteller, under whose elegant prose runs a seam of very dark wit.
She is good on sad physical detail (bad marital sex provides “little more than a gnawing tickle”) and on the many selves unveiled over a long and eventful life. It’s no new revelation that Hollywood attracts those with missing parts, nor that it offers them only temporary lease on a sense of completeness; but Straub is an insightful commentator on its seduction techniques. Unfortunately, Laura Lamont herself is kind of dull. Propelled by a fatalistic tractability rather than any grand passion for acting, this protagonist experiences a lot but offers little in the way of meaningful response.
Straub keeps her oddly distant; her great love affair, and her eventual, inevitable decline into substance addiction sort of seep up out of nowhere. An admirable performance, then; but one that needed stronger antagonists or deeper, fuller psychological detail to really hit its mark. «
Search for a job
Search for a car
Search for a house
Weather for Edinburgh
Friday 24 May 2013
Temperature: 3 C to 12 C
Wind Speed: 18 mph
Wind direction: North east
Temperature: 7 C to 17 C
Wind Speed: 13 mph
Wind direction: West