Steve Martin’s novel, An Object of Beauty, is itself an object of beauty. It’s got a super sexy dust cover, thick and creamy, with slick raised lettering that looks like it was cut out from a modern masterpiece. There are nicely reproduced photos scattered throughout the book of paintings and sculptures that are mentioned in the text, which is so fun for the reader to be able to instantly see the art the characters are referencing.
It’s also a pleasure to read. An Object of Beauty not as literary as The Goldfinch, and the characters are nowhere near as complex, but it is clean and very smart (hmm, S. Martin = smart/in. I love the whole nomen est omen phenomenon). The way Martin writes about sex is fantastic–hot but never ever smutty. It wouldn’t be embarrassing to read aloud to a friend, but still not something you’d share with mom.
I’ve loved Steve Martin since his King Tut days and it is so cool to see a brilliant, good guy like Steve become such a respected author, playwright, actor and art collector. He joked a lot about drugs and sex in his stand-up days, but has managed to be famous for such a long time without drama and scandal.
I learned a lot about art and the art market from this book. It takes place before and after 9/11 and gives a great sense of what it must be like to live in the city as a popular young woman, so it is a great escape.
Many of the characters are not likable, especially Lacey Yeager, the central character. She’s vain, narcissistic, cruel to her lovers and shady to the point of criminal. The narrator, Daniel, an art magazine writer, is self-described as “benign,” and “a dork,” and I imagine if Martin were younger he would play Daniel in the movie version while I picture Yeager as Blake Lively in her “Age of Adaline” prime. Only someone that beautiful could play this woman who turns heads while riding her bike through Manhattan, a tiny island full of beautiful people.
Steve Martin is one of the people I would most like to meet (along with art aficionado Diane Keaton who he has dated), however, even though I’ve worked hard at studying art, I’m sure I’d feel completely ignorant in his presence. Better to admire him from a distance, like a Warhol Elvis. This book both inspires me to keep looking/learning and leaves me exhausted about how much there is to know, especially about the bottomless pit of contemporary art and the snobby gallerists that guard it like Cerberus at the entrance to Hades.