“I have found that—just as in real life—imagination sometimes has to stand in for experience.”Steve Martin, An Object of Beauty
Title: An Object of Beauty
Author: Steve Martin
Genres: Contemporary Fiction, Art
Pages: 292 (Paperback)
Published: November 23rd, 2010
My Rating: ★★★½
This book has been sitting on my shelf waiting to be read for a good ten years or so. I’m not sure why it took me so long to get around to it, but I’m finally here.
Starting her career in the 1990s, Lacey is trying to make her way in the art world. She has a keen eye and appreciation of the paintings she sorts through, eventually honing her skills to tailor to the financial side of the fence. Her view of art changes with this, and along with it, there is a looming question over the story: When did art stop being something for the soul?
The story is narrated by Daniel, an old friend of Lacey’s who has watched her through the ups and downs of her career and the industry. He, too, is involved in the art world as a writer. This is how he comes to write about his friend. As the reader, it comes across as a character study.
Steve Martin’s writing style is among my favorites (if not my favorite). Right away the voice of the narration here reminded me of the narration of L.A. Story. There’s even a nod to the movie early on, mentioning roller skating in the museum. Of course, this is a different story. An Object of Beauty is very much a New York story.
Perhaps more than this being a story about Lacey, it’s a reflective look at the art world. I enjoyed this aspect the most. I didn’t find Lacey particularly interesting and certainly not likable. Without the atmospheric and pensive prose, I would have put it down. I can’t stress enough how much I enjoy Steve Martin’s writing, though. For that alone, I would read this again.
Likes & Dislikes:
What I liked:
- Again, the writing. It’s witty and lyrical while maintaining a certain depth that often ponders more philosophical matters.
- The focus on the art world. It really is a complex industry and so rich with history. It’s been evolving since the beginning.
- The tone of the book is reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany’s while maintaining a unique voice.
What I didn’t like:
- Unlikeable characters. I’m all for personality flaws, but Lacey comes across as self-obsessed from start to finish. There was nothing redeeming about her for me.
- I found the plot boring. This was disappointing because I love character-driven books, however, when I don’t find the character likable or interesting, that changes matters.
Though the book didn’t sweep me away as I’d hoped, it was interesting enough that I’ll hang onto it for a while. I also like the addition of pictures in the printed version. I listened to the audiobook (I enjoyed the narrator — he actually sounded similar to Steve Martin) so I didn’t realize this until later.