BEST TO LAUGH by Lorna Landvik


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Landvik—playwright, actor and author of comic novels—delivers a semiautobiographical tale about a young woman who follows her showbiz dreams in 1970s Hollywood.

Candy Pekkala—half Korean, half Norwegian but all Minnesotan—has a college degree and no idea what comes next. When she’s offered the sublet of her cousin’s Hollywood digs, Candy moves to LA and Peyton Hall, a storied apartment building that once housed movie stars and is in some ways the real star of the novel. The current residents are less illustrious: Madame Pepper, a clairvoyant who advised old Hollywood; Ed, a substitute teacher who’s won a fortune on game shows; Maeve, the bodybuilding daughter of a TV soap star; Francis, the long-ago proprietor of LA’s ritziest nightclub. Peyton Hall’s aura inspires Candy to follow her long-buried ambition to give stand-up comedy a try. As she hones her act, Candy gets the kind of temp work found only in LA: stints at a record label and a literary agency; and a job labeling VHS tapes at a stand-in for the Playboy mansion. All this glitz and all the new friends she makes under the night-blooming jasmine transform Candy—who was a lonely child and drug-addled teen—into a confident young woman who can take her late mother’s advice that it’s best to laugh. Though Landvik offers an amiable stroll through Candy’s growing success, not everything works; a heavy reliance on diary entries and clunky comedy passages detract from an otherwise pleasant portrait of the quirky residents of a since-demolished Hollywood landmark.

Landvik’s novel is happily filled with a double dose of nostalgia—the protagonist’s for the golden age of Hollywood and the author’s for a lovably gritty 1970s Los Angeles.

Pub Date: Sept. 15th, 2014
ISBN: 9780816694532
Page count: 296pp
Publisher: Univ. of Minnesota
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15th, 2014


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