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AUTHOR | Anthony Marra


Anthony Marra is the New York Times bestselling author of The Tsar of Love and Techno and A Constellation of Vital Phenomena. He has won the National Book Critics Circle’s John Leonard Prize, the Anisfield-Wolf Book Award, the Whiting Award, and many other prestigious prizes. Marra has also been longlisted for the National Book Award and honored with fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the National Endowment for the Arts.

In 2017, Marra was included in Granta’s decennial list of best young American novelists and in 2018 he won the $50,000 Simpson Prize, which he put toward finishing his long-awaited second novel, Mercury Pictures Presents, which he began in 2014. Marra said, “This is my first novel set in America, and though mid-century Los Angeles is new terrain, this novel is preoccupied with the same concerns as my previous books: political coercion, historical amnesia and falsified realities. At a time when these themes dominate American political life, this novel and the questions it raises feel all the more urgent to me.” The Los Angeles Times praised this novel by saying that Marra “possesses a seemingly inexhaustible imagination. He knows exactly where to insert historical anecdotes and when to opt for pure invention, weaving it all together with witty asides.”

Anthony Marra received his BA from the University of Southern California and his MFA from the Iowa Writers Workshop. He was born in Washington, DC, studied in Eastern Europe, taught at Stanford, and now resides in New England with his wife. The Literary Society of the Southwest is pleased to have him as a returning speaker.

Watch "#PouredOver: Anthony Marra on MERCURY PICTURES PRESENTS"

Watch "Mercury Pictures Presents: An Evening with Anthony Marra and Celeste Ng"

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Mercury Pictures Presents by Anthony Marra

Set in 1940's Hollywood and Italy, this is a sweeping novel that centers around Maria Lagana, a strong-willed Italian refugee who emigrates with her mother to the US after her Socialist father was sentenced to internal exile in Mussolini's Italy.  She is hired at a B-movie studio, Mercury Pictures, and rises through the ranks to become an uncredited and underpaid associate producer, haunted by the inadvertent role she played in her father's arrest and imprisonment. Amidst a wealth of well drawn characters is a 2nd rate movie mogul, Artie Feldman, whose antics and often hilarious dialogue are right out of the screwball comedies of that era and makes for laugh-out-loud reading. The challenges the characters face and their attempts to repair the mistakes made in their relationships draw the reader further into the story.   In this novel, Marra brings to light the rarely discussed persecution of many innocent European refugees who found low level jobs in the movie industry producing propaganda films for the US government, yet were later ironically labeled as enemy aliens. He also deftly handles the restrictions on resident aliens during the war and the internment of the Japanese and the  prejudice they faced. Marra weaves the lives of several generations into a compelling story which explores issues (racism, misogyny, censorship, nationalism) that are still relevant today. His prose is so rich that you may find yourself reading at half speed to avoid missing any gems. An entertaining read that took Anthony Marra 8 years to write and showcases his penchant for messy people. 

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