in conversation with Adam Johnson
Mercury Pictures Presents
Corte Madera Store & Live Online
Sun., August 7, 2022 • 4:00pm PT
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 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.”
Anthony Marra is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tsar of Love and Techno and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena, winner of the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize and the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, and longlisted for the National Book Award.
Adam Johnson is a Professor of English with emphasis in creative writing at Stanford University. Winner of a Whiting Award and Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts and the American Academy in Berlin, he is the author of several books, including Fortune Smiles, which won the 2015 National Book Award, and the novel The Orphan Master’s Son, which was awarded the 2013 Pulitzer Prize. His fiction has appeared in Esquire, GQ, Playboy, Harper's Magazine, Granta, Tin House and The Best American Short Stories. His work has been translated into more than thirty languages.
Anthony Marra photo courtesy of Paul Duda; Adam Johnson photo courtesy of Samson Yee