An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

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An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin

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Category: General Fiction
Rating: 4.5/5
Reviewer: Louise Laurie
Reviewed by Louise Laurie
Summary: A slick and sassy take on the art world in the 1990s. Twentysomething Lacey, the central character, takes the reader on an artistic journey: the highs and the lows, the celebrated and the ridiculous and much, much more in competitive New York.
Buy? Yes Borrow? Yes
Pages: 304 Date: November 2010
Publisher: W&N
ISBN: 978-0297863298

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Leave aside the title of the book for a minute, the book itself is also 'an object of beauty' with its striking front cover and primary colours artfully arranged. And then I turned the book over and said to myself, oh, it's that Steve Martin. I knew he was - and is - a very funny actor but I didn't know that he was also a writer. So, before I'd even opened the book I was thinking - will he be as good a writer as he is an actor. I was about to find out ...

And although the novel is all about Lacey (she's featured on almost every single page) it's not written in the first person, in her own words. It's written by a male friend of hers. You can tell straight away that he's in awe of her. She's the shining star and he's well, just lucky enough to be standing in her shadow. His name's Daniel and Martin did such a good job that I almost immediately forgot Daniel's name. In Daniel's own words he says I worry that unless I write her story down, and see it bound and tidy on my book-shelf, I will be unable to ever write about anything else. And yes, he is pretty well placed to write her amazing story as he writes art reviews. But rather than make a lot of money, he seems to simply scrape by. He obviously doesn't have Lacey's talents or, shall we say, her killer instincts either. She is the kind of girl who turns heads wherever she goes. All men adore her, drool over her but some women see her as a threat and consequently they can give Lacey a frosty reception. All of this is described in detail and makes for interesting reading which almost sparkles on the page.

I found Martin to have an intelligent and engaging style. But not show-offy, in any way. He's managed to capture the fast and furious wit of New Yorkers beautifully. All of the dialogue is terrific and in particular Lacey's with - well, with anyone really. She's got spunk in spades, no doubt about that. I loved her. She's like a breath of fresh air. Let me give you just one example. She and Daniel (he's like her lap-dog at times) are in a dress shop. She's trying on clothes. A big art occasion is coming up and she needs to look her ultra-best. Daniel says to her You look great. A lot of people our age don't know how to go in and apply for a job. Lacey's response? I don't go in and apply for a job. I go in and get a job. Enough said.

And as the ever-resourceful Lacey speeds up the art-world ladder, she sometimes leaves behind a trail of devastation (no doubt artfully arranged). But does she care? I think you may know the answer to that one. Part of her meteoric rise is that alongside being very pretty, she can deal with all types of people. A good skill to have in the art world.

Martin gives us all of this and more, in glorious detail. There are numerous creatively-written paragraphs and smart one-liners such as The paintings in the basement were generally dogs... Martin also mercilessly shows us the pettiness, the greed, the stupidity and also the snobbery of the art world. We're told in detail about episodes where individuals are prepared to spend obscene amounts of money for a piece of art. Whether they actually like it or not, is often besides the point. One-upmanship is the key word. Then 9/11 happened and everything changed ...

A lovely touch is that the book is interspersed with pictures of the very paintings discussed in the novel. So we, the readers, have absolutely no excuse but to get involved. Nice touch. This book is a witty, scathing at times, delightful romp through the art world of the nineties. Thoroughly recommended.

I'd like to thank the publishers for sending a copy to The Bookbag.

If this book appeals then you might like to have a look at This Land is Your Land by Woody Guthrie and Kathy Jakobsen

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Buy An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin at Amazon You can read more book reviews or buy An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin at


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