An Object of Beauty: A Novel
Who knew that goofy Steve Martin of SNL fame was such a renaissance man? Not only can he claim comedy and acting to his repertoire, but he can also add musician, playwright, and author of both adult and children’s fiction to that list. When I first heard that Martin was an author I expected, much like other comedians who write books, that his work would be super funny. But I was very surprised to find out that his adult fiction is pretty serious and oftentimes somewhat tragic. For someone to be able to switch gears in such a way that Steve Martin can, it’s no wonder why he’s such a recognized individual.
Martin’s latest book An Object of Beauty, explores the world of the New York art scene as experienced by art reviewer Daniel Franks and his wild card female friend Lacey. The story is told as if written by Daniel himself, mostly chronicling the life of Lacey with little instances where Daniel and Lacey’s lives intersect. Known as first person omniscient, Wikipedia refers to this as “a rare form of first person in which the narrator is a character in the story, but also knows the thoughts and feelings of all the other characters.” Lacey, who can be a very manipulative and selfish character, is young, beautiful, carefree and knows how to use this to her advantage. Starting off at the very bottom of the totem pole, Lacey quickly works her way up in the art world by paying very close attention to the people, and art, she comes in contact with. As with any kind of story that has a tragic aspect to it, this may be what ultimately unravels her.
The author definitely did a good job researching for this story, for as a reader you are constantly bombarded with healthy doses of art history. The one thing I especially liked about this story was the connection between the art itself and Lacey as “beautiful objects.” If you hadn’t already guessed, the title of this book refers to art, but at some point while reading the story, one starts to wonder if art and Lacey are not paralleling one another. There’s even a line early on that really caught my attention. In it, Lacey is really starting to get a handle on the worth of certain art works and what draws people to one particular piece and not another of similar composition. As Lacey starts to factor in various characteristics, Martin writes, “her toe crossed ground from which it is difficult to return: she started converting objects of beauty into objects of value.” That line right there had a lot of weight to it that stayed with me throughout my reading of this novel.
My suggestion is, if you like anything art related or are a huge art history buff pick up this book. It definitely makes reading it a lot easier. This was not one of those books that I could finish in one sitting just because An Object of Beauty is definitely a lot more technical then some of his other works. But even so, Steve Martin’s descriptively flowing words, not to mention his departure from the funny man we know him as, make it worth checking out.