It’s hard to write a review of Emma Straub’s Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures without just making that review a laundry list of things Straub did downright correctly. It’s hard, too, not to draw parallels between the well depicted and seemingly lost Golden Age glamor as seen in the previously reviewed Kino, as well as the tough stoicism of Norwegians that Karen Iversen’s Full Body Burden underlined so heavily in June. It’s so easy to tell what Straub excels at on the page, since what we’re reading is purely a chronology of someone whose very life (or the reinvention of it) wows us. Taken together, Laura Lamont’s Life in Pictures is a Golden Age–worthy story in itself, something straightforward and wrenching and remembered.
I will confess to bias in how I immediately latched on to the childhood of the girl that would become Laura Lamont – Elsa Emerson, the youngest of a family of sturdy blondes from Door County, Wisconsin. The we-don’t-talk-about-it Midwest, the keep-your-head-down nature of an unglamorous life – these are the benchmarks of an unlikely emigrant to Hollywood, but Laura-to-be is equipped with all the trappings of a star whom no one has to worry about becoming a diva. (Emma Straub, as far as I can tell, is “from New York” – but I sense a familiarity with my homeland that extends beyond simple research. Do I detect a Great Lakes upbringing?)