Tuesday, September 13, 2011

An Object of Beauty

I've been a fan of Steve Martin forever. Aside from seeming effortlessly funny and starring in some really good movies (e.g., All of Me, L.A. Story, Roxanne, Parenthood, on and on and on....), The Jerk is also a great writer. I've read and loved all of Steve Martin's books--his novellas, his autobiography, and his collection of essays from The New Yorker. 

© Grand Central Publishing
His latest book, An Object of Beauty, is about Lacey Yeager, an ambitious young woman aiming to climb the social and professional ladders of the New York art scene. From her first job as cataloguer at Sotheby's to her rise as an independent gallery owner, this story is like a time capsule. From the 1990s onward, it accurately captures the volatile state of the art scene and the city itself. I know nothing about the art world, its peaks and troughs, and its obsessive collectors, but I found it all pretty fascinating combined with what was actually happening in New York during those years.

I caught Steve Martin being interviewed by Charlie Rose on PBS recently, and he described this story as, "Just, look at what happens here," and Lacey as "tricky." I like Lacey least of all the literary characters he's introduced so far, mainly because I found her ruthlessly ambitious and calculating. I related to her most on those rare occasions when she felt lost or confused, but that's not who she is. 

An Object of Beauty is more than a great novel: It includes color images of artworks and snippets about the artists referenced in the story. I wondered how much research Steve Martin, a long-time art collector, had to do for this novel and how much of it he already knew. 

So, read this book: You'll get little art history lessons throughout an entertaining story. Then, you might find yourself looking at things differently just because the characters in the book are looking at art that way. By the end of it, you'll probably want to shop for new artwork to cover the walls of your home. (I'm still considering it.)

Now, I swear I'm not an obsessive fan who is always seeking Steve Martin out. It's just my luck that, aside from the Charlie Rose interview, I also happened to catch him on Austin City Limits with the Steel Canyon Rangers. (This probably just means I watch too much late-night TV.) And, it's lucky for you because--while completely unrelated to this book--here's a highlight for your enjoyment. I think this song may be almost as good as "King Tut."Almost.


"Atheists Don't Have No Songs" Steve Martin and the Steel Canyon Rangers
© 2010 Austin City Limits

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