Thursday, December 9, 2010

Book Review: "An Object of Beauty" by Steve Martin

Admittedly, I don't know a lot about art. I can recognize some more famous paintings by Degas, Manet, Monet, Van Gogh, O'Keefe, Picasso, Vermeer, etc., and because I'm in love with the musical Sunday in the Park with George I can recognize a Seurat painting like nobody's business. But I never took an art history class in college, and although I like to visit art galleries from time to time and certainly know what appeals to me aesthetically, I'm no art snob.

Art is at the core of Steve Martin's (yes, that Steve Martin) engaging and entertaining new novel, An Object of Beauty. The narrator, Daniel, is a somewhat shy and unremarkable art writer (he reminds me a bit of some of Martin's movie characters) who recounts the story of Lacey Yeager, a beautiful, ambitious art dealer who uses all of the weapons in her arsenal (some legal, some not) to succeed in the art world. Along the way, Lacey works for Sotheby's, then a private gallery, before opening her own gallery, and she becomes more and more driven to succeed. Which, of course, leads to challenges.

I found this book educational without being heavy-handed and the story was very captivating. While Lacey is not a sympathetic character and Daniel tends to be almost a non-presence (surprising when he's the narrator), I found myself hooked on the story and I wanted to find out how everything would turn out. Martin is clearly a student of the art world, as his expertise truly shines through the story, and his writing style is very matter-of-fact. I was very impressed with this book and again with Martin as a writer, as I very much enjoyed one of his last novels, Shopgirl. If you're an art fan, you'll definitely enjoy this. But read it even if you're not.

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