Constant Reader
WebBoardOrientationReading ListsHome WorksActivities

Buy the paperback

Laura
by Larry Watson

From Booklist Watson's previous novels, including Montana 1948 (1993), have dealt mainly with quiet desperation in the small towns of the West. Here the setting moves to the East and Midwest, and the desperation is much more verbal. The story of Paul Finley, son of a charismatic Boston book editor, begins in the 1950s, when 11-year-old Paul meets 22-year-old poet Laura Coe Pettit, his father's lover. We follow Paul through childhood and adulthood, as his parents divorce, his father dies, and he marries. Throughout it all, though, it is his obsession with Laura that drives his inner life. Watching that obsession consume Paul's soul is an agonizing process, painful yet hypnotic. When he finally attempts to act on his longing for Laura, to say yes to life for the first time, we are as embarrassed as we are inspired. Watson never takes the easy way out: Paul is both a romantic hero (a Freudian's Heathcliff) and a silly fool. The great strength of this uncompromising novel is the way Watson portrays coming-of-age as a decidedly mixed blessing. Bill Ott

TOP | 
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (1 of 11), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 06:24 PM I just finished. I was surprised at the way it ended. I'm still a bit shaken. What do you think, Anne and Lynn? It was fairly emotional for me, and I was always trying to mentally shake some sense into Paul's head. Do you think it's realistic someone could be this obsessed for so long? Sherry TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (2 of 11), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 06:38 PM I wondered the same thing, Sherry. His pull to Laura was otherwordly, and I kept hoping he'd outgrow it. She dominated every day of his life and cost him personal happiness. Is it possible Laura acted as a buffer from the circumstances of his childhood? By dealing with her, he could avoid the dysfunction of his family, even in his adulthood. K TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (3 of 11), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 06:53 PM I think you're right, Kay. He used his obsession as a way of disengaging the life he was really living. Or the life he was meant to live. He sort of imprinted on Laura at an early age, and her celebrity kept him focused on her. If she had turned out to be just a normal person, married to some plumber in Nyack, I doubt if his obsession would have held. But then he probably wouldn't have had it in the first place. Sherry TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (4 of 11), Read 22 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 07:26 PM So is it worth buying? The library here doesn't have it. Ruth "Nobody belongs to us, except in memory." John Updike TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (5 of 11), Read 19 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 08:38 PM Yes, the ending shook me too. It seemed to me that Paul's feelings for Laura were inextricably linked to his relationship with his father. The loss of his father seemed to strengthen his obsession. Even though he felt he was in competition with his father for her attention and affection, she was also a common bond between them. I was glad when Paul decided to go back to his wife and family, but found it hard to understand the wife's willingness to take him back given the long-standing nature of his feelings for Laura. I know I couldn't have done it under those circumstances! Lynn TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (6 of 11), Read 18 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Kay Dugan okaychatt@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 09:59 PM Good point, Lynn. Laura was a common bond with his father. I was not particularly impressed by Laura as a person, were you? I have no idea whether her poetry merited the attention, or if, as Paul's mother suggested, it wouldn't last much longer than Laura. Without her charisma, I don't think it would have made such an impression on people. That's what I found so sad about Paul's obsession. He was so caught up over a tad better than ordinary woman, who was incapable of maintaining a meaningful relationship. Or am I being too harsh on her? She was vulnerable, and terribly afraid of living the common life. I had to wonder how much of a defense that stance was. K TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (7 of 11), Read 18 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 10:23 PM Laura was a hard character to deal with. I think she liked to manipulate people and play them against each other, just as she did with Paul and his father. But I agree that she was very vulnerable. I can't remember now if we were ever given a reason for her strong desire to live something other than a "common" life, but I felt that she must have had some mental instabilities driving her most of her life. I'm not sure it mattered whether her poetry was really of lasting quality or not. In fact, I don't think it was her talent that drew Paul as much as the sense of mystery and the unusual that surrounded her and the fact that she was essentially unattainable. As for whether you should buy this or not, Ruth, I can't say. But I will tell you that I read it back in early June and there are scenes that are still very vivid in my mind in spite of the fact that I usually don't remember details very long after I finish a book. Lynn TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (8 of 11), Read 17 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Anne Wilfong anne.wilfong@gte.net Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 11:28 PM Wow. This one will stay with me for a long time. Lynn, you're right, the ending rocked me. I was fighting tears the last 50 pages or so. Why is it that rational people (and Paul did his best to come off as a deliberate, rational man) have such irrational obsessions? The pedestal he put Laura on when he was twelve held up through the years, somehow. He just couldn't see her flaws for all her charisma. And even when he could, it just didn't matter. He was sucked in. I didn't like Laura as a person. But I didn't struggle too much with that because Laura could care less what I (or anyone) thought about her. In the discussion with Watson at the book's end, he said love her or hate her, Laura ignites a passion one way or the other. He didn't care, either, how we felt about her--as long as we as readers felt passionate about it. This book seems like such a departure from his others. But according to Watson, his first draft of LAURA came before he wrote M1948 and WHITE CROSSES. He felt he was unable to finish LAURA until he got a bit older and had a certain level of maturity under his belt. Perhaps he had to age with Paul to come to closure. These characters had such an air of authenticity to them. The ending broke my heart because it was so believable. Yet, there was hope, too. As a writer, Watson did his job well--he told a story I will long remember. Anne TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (9 of 11), Read 18 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Lynn Isvik washualum@yahoo.com Date: Friday, August 17, 2001 11:38 PM That's an interesting idea, Anne, that Watson had to mature along with Paul's character in order to finish the book. Maybe we can remember to ask him about it in Milwaukee. Lynn TOP |
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (10 of 11), Read 16 times Conf: Constant Reader From: Sherry Keller shkell@starband.net Date: Saturday, August 18, 2001 07:25 AM Ruth, if you can wait until I see you, you can borrow my copy and read it up at the cabin. That's interesting, about his starting this before M48. I think this is one of those books that will really stay with me. It's already kind of "curing" in my mind. I may like it better after it all settles, than while I was reading it. Obsession seems to be a really hard thing to capture and have the reader believe in it. Most people would just say "get over it." I remember having that "get over it" feeling when I read Dancing at the Rascal Fair. I think Watson did a good job balancing my empathy for his obsession and my desire for him to have a normal good life. Sherry
Topic: Laura by Larry Watson (11 of 11), Read 17 times Conf: Constant Reader From: R Bavetta rbavetta@prodigy.net Date: Saturday, August 18, 2001 11:40 AM I thought of Dancing while reading these notes, Sherry. Thanks for the offer on the book, but it would be nice to have read it before seeing Watson. I've got it in my basket at Amazon. I'll let you know. Ruth "Nobody belongs to us, except in memory." John Updike Post New Topic | Reply to: "Laura by Larry Watson"

 

 

 
Search:
Keywords:
In Association with Amazon.com