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3.7 out of 5 stars38
3.7 out of 5 stars
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
Steve Martin's foray into writing has been met with mixed reviews and it's easy to see why. An Object of Beauty follows the life of Lacey Yeager, a strong and independent woman in the world of art. It details her meteoric rise from an intern managing stock at Sotheby's in New York to the owning of her own successful gallery. It's more of a commentary on the social circles of art collectors and dealers that Lacey travels in, but it's very, very art-heavy.

Every few pages, a print of the painting being described is included to educate us on classical & contemporary art and allow the reader to connect to the material. This is great as some of the paintings are true classics and I enjoyed reading about their history, however is because of this juxtaposition the story falls down. The hard facts about artists and their works clash with the flighty-story of Lacey and her whimsical relationships with men. It may sound like an effort to balance the serious side of the book with a lighter side, but it just felt like I was alternating pages between a high-society romance novel and an art history textbook.

An Object of Beauty is incredibly short, weighing in at 304 pages of wide-spaced, largely-dialogue-based paragraphs. Chapter breaks come at 3 or 4 page intervals (68 chapters in a 300 page book!) which creates large amounts of blank space at the ending of one chapter and beginning of the next - it all feels like it was designed to pad out a short story into a full novel. When this is considered in the context that 20 or so years pass during the story, it makes 300 pages seem very insignificant. The narrator writes in first person and describes Lacey in the third person, but somehow knows more about her than a character possibly could or should which is obviously for the sake of story progression, but then why use the narrator as a character in the first place?

Despite all of this, the writing is very good but only when Steve Martin gets into his flow, his descriptions of people and galleries are very entertaining and occasionally, witty. It's just very short on story, when the book looks as though it is going to become an art-crime novel, that side-story is quickly wrapped up, it's not a love-story either as Lacey stamps on the heart of all of her suitors. In conclusion, it's a good book that will educate you a little as you learn about the subtleties of the art world, but the story seems superfluous and insignificant and finishes as abruptly as it began. It's a promising start for Steve Martin, but it's no magnum opus.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
on 24 December 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Steve Martin - yes, THAT Steve Martin - has produced a highly enjoyable read with this book about the Manhattan art world of the late 90s.

In a way, the book was highly reminiscent of Breakfast at Tiffany's by Capote - there is the same distance between the narrator and the protagonist, as well as the backdrop of the glamour of New York city.

A nice feature of the book is the inclusion of illustrations of the art in question, making the book somewhat informative as well as highly engaging.

I highly recommend this book. It was fun, interesting and well written.
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2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
'An Object of Beauty' tells the story of the best of times in the art market, the 1990's. Steve Martin is an aficionado of art, and his knowledge comes through loud and clear. He also inserts pictures of the art that is discussed,. and that, is the best of the best. Not only is there a story of art, but we are privy to a little history of the artist and a picture of that art. The story is told in flashback by the voices of the art dealers, and Lacey Yeager in particular and her friend, Daniel, a young man who is a writer in the art world.We are privy to the sexy Yeager. She is young and blonde and beautiful, and just ripe for the art world. Lacey is a cool, sometimes cold woman from Georgia who makes it big in the art world. Always big money, but never the millionaire she covets. Just enough, but not enough to play with the big boys. Sotheby's the art house where Lacey found her knowledge. Working from the basement up and with some nefarious schemes that we wonder about. He discusses artists that may not be well known, such as Milton Avery. Milton Avery, is discussed at length and we are wonder if the author is a fan. He tells us, Avery "was an isolated figure in American painting, not falling neatly into any category".

The last half of the novel perks up considerably. Lacey's values seem to change from that of someone who appreciates art to someone who wants to make the big bucks. As cold as she is in her sex life, I wonder if there was ever any love in her life. I am not sure that I empathized with any of the characters- the art world is full of the pretenders and the wannabes. To me, the art market is an uneasy environment. but it does have an appeal. "A night to be smug, cool, to dress up or dress down," acknowledges Daniel, "and to bring into focus everything one loves about oneself and make it tangible." Steve Martin has an appeal. His writing is swift and concise at times and then becomes heavy and lingers. All in all a book to be read in leisure.

Recommended. prisrob 03-14-11

Born Standing Up: A Comic's Life

Late for School
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 13 February 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Steve Martin writes about art with clarity, passion & knowledge. He also has a tendancy to verbally ramble without purpose, forgetting that it is not a film script and each scene does not need to be covered with such minutiae. The actor and banjo master has mixed art-history with fiction in his latest offering about the bizarre, shallow world of Lacey Yeager, a young woman making her way in the fickle world of high society art.

Despite the potential for an unusual and exciting book - this is, at times, about as aimless and bereft of purpose as an article about French cooking in a car magazine. Yet, it is as vivid as a Woody Allen film - in places. Rich scenes of New York scattered with quirky oddball eccentrics. Add a jazz soundtrack and it's a Woody classic.

The book starts badly. Martin's alter ego is named Daniel Chester French Franks who comes from Norman Rockwell country, Stockbridge. His parents "being parochial Americans, didn't realize that the name Daniel Chester French Franks read funny". It doesn't, really, except for a petty French currency reference.

Daniel met the lady about whom the book is about, at art college and, as we are told straight away, "had sex exactly once". Her name, is Lacey Yeager - unusual enough to avoid making some real life woman of the art world, the unwitting subject of attention I suppose.

Then, just as we approach chapter 2, Martin decides to throw a bucket of water on the entire book. Well, a small bucket.

"I will tell you her story from my own recollections, from conversations I conducted with those around her, and, alas from gossip: thank God the page is not a courtroom. If you occasionally wonder how I know about some of the events I describe in this book, I don't. I have found that - just as in real life- imagination has to stand in for experience.

To inform the reader that even the fictitious character in a fictitious book is using `artistic license' is wholly unnecessary.

The book feels, at times, like a self indulgent fantasy about a woman that Martin would like to have met. A kind of intellectual version of a Playboy readers naughty submission. At other times, the sheer volume of name-dropping will cause you to set the book aside to check out whether these people and places are real and who they are.

The journey through New York's art world takes us to auction rooms and meetings with the elite players who salivate at Ivan Aivazovsky's `The Bay of Naples By Moonlight' for which the only impressive thing about this drawing of a bay at night, is that it's old (C. 1850). As we read about Lacey's - `New Digs' and adventurous weekends, cycling in Chelsea and meeting moneyed uptown art dealers called Barton Talley - it becomes clear that Martin is having as much fun as the reader is possibly having.

Whether Martin is being overly critical or trying to sound impressed - his often ambiguous writing style mixes sarcasm with genuine respect:

"they turned the corner into the main gallery and saw, in the premier spot where a 1909 Picasso had hung last week before selling for eleven million dollars, the Warhol Orange Marilyn, a silk screen done in 1964. While the Cubist Picasso had gravitas, the Orange Marilyn had exuberance: it was at though a fruit-hatted Carmen Miranda had just shown up at a funeral.
However opposite these pictures were, they both worked as historical objects and they worked as objects of beauty. While the Picasso was deep and serious the Warhol was radiant and buoyant".

In summary, `An Object Of Beauty' is an overly-long, at times outrageous and yet highly engaging, journey into the New York art world. It would make a superb Woody Allen film.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
on 22 December 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
I went for `An Object of Beauty' because I'm a huge fan of Steve Martin both as a performer and screenwriter (`Bowfinger', `Roxanne' `LA Story') and after reading the book jacket, this seemed to have all the ingredients of a really biting satire.

Set in the contemporary art market, this is an area rich in pseuds with plenty of easy targets. Let's be honest, who among you hasn't gazed in astonishment at a Turner Prize winner and thought: `What a load of old cobblers!'?

Anyway, short rant over. Steve's ambitious protagonist is Lacey Yeager, who buys-up art and sells it at a huge profit on the early 1990s New York art scene. From there, he develops his plot quite nicely, following her story, but unfortunately Lacey simply doesn't convince as a real flesh-and-blood character.

The book isn't particularly funny, nor does the prose sparkle the way you'd expect from such an intelligent and witty guy. There are a few good one liners - naturally - but not enough for my liking. In fact, I'd go as far to say that if it had been written by anyone else I may have abandoned 'An Object of Beauty' partway through. And although it improves towards the end, the whole book read like an exercise by someone who felt that they should write a satire on the art world rather than needed to.

I still remain a big fan of the man's earlier work however, and this book is sure to sell plenty of copies. There will be many who will love it, and I hope my short review hasn't offended you, but for me it was merely an average read.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 20 December 2010
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
This is a weird one. Arguably, for Steve Martin, writing has become the new day-job, swiping the flame from acting (which in turn replaced stand-up many moons back); and it's obvious the man can write, displaying an obvious love for prose. However, I'm not quite sure how to nail An Object of Beauty. In a way, it's Truman Capote-lite; a timeless tale of a girl and the city, complete with requisite notions of the metropolis as magical land of infinite possibility, all populated by potent sexual and/or business beings as something other. However, the twist here is that the central character, a female, is our anti-hero; she is predatory, knowing and sly, and for much of the book as quietly dangerous as the art trade sharks she takes to swimming with.

Framing events within New York's art works, Martin, a confirmed lover and collector of art himself, sets out to fashion An Object of Beauty as a mid-brow didactic affair; punctuating the tale with reproductions of the paintings discussed, and littering his writing with choice little art facts. However, for all the work put into this novel, it somehow fails to ignite, perhaps due to the lack of anything resembling jeopardy - or for that matter, a central character that the reader can empathize with or care for. Which is a shame because Martin has a real talent for writing, turning as he does many a gorgeous sentence; pivoting runs with colourful metaphors that extend no further than is polite and never showing off. For Martin is no stunt writer, is not in it to impress; more, he is simply delivering a love of words that he hopes to share with the reader. Yet, for one that is evidently well read, he fails to bring engagement. Umberto Eco (which Martin is not, nor trying to be) is clever because he balances his didacticism with engaging plots. Whereas Steve Martin has, sadly, with An Object of Beauty, derived a take that simply becomes indulgent over time.

A great shame.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 10 January 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
"An Object of Beauty" is my first Martin novel. I wasn't sure what to expect at first, but much like his film "L.A Story", it's a wry and often satirical story on a subject that seems close to Martin's heart.

I was impressed with the New York art scene that Martin created. Some people may say it is a little cliched, but it felt suitably bohemian to me - with people running fashionable galleries, chasing the pictures that will turn them the next big profit, all the while courting the wealthy collectors who might be accumulating art out of habit, rather than love.

It's a novel filled with characters drifting with that rather detached coolness that reminded me of Bret Easton Ellis' "Rules of Attraction" and "Less Than Zero".

If I was disappointed by anything, it was the pace of the plot. It's a book happy to meander along, until finally gathering pace in the final quarter. Suddenly we're galloping through the life of his lead character, Lacey Yeager, as she establishes a gallery of her own. A story line of a potential fraud investigation never really consumes the plot as much as I expected it to, and is then dispensed with all too quickly. It ultimately made for a rather uneven read - hence my three star review.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
VINE VOICEon 18 December 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Steve Martin has made some lousy - but presumably lucrative - choices in his movie career, but every now and then reminds us why he was so funny from the late 70s to early 90s. Bowfinger and The Spanish Prisoner kind of balance out the ghastly Pink Panther and Cheaper by the Dozen franchises. His novel The Object of Beauty certainly leans towards the subtle wit of his better late acting work, but remains oddly insubstantial, like a New Yorker short story taken for a long walk until it's on the point of exhaustion. There are moments of amusement, but not enough. I'd still rather he did stuff like this than desecrate the corpse of Peter Sellers, though.
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VINE VOICEon 4 September 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Steve Martin's good-natured comedies would no more clue you in to his being a fine novelist than they would suggest to you that he's an accomplished bluegrass banjo player. From this book (his third novel) it would appear that he's also an art aficionado.

Lacey Yeagar is an up-and-coming trader in the exciting New York art scene of the 1990s. The narrator, her more conventional art-critic friend, details her manoeuvrings over the years, as she wields her knowledge, instincts, gaiety and sexuality in her efforts to get to the top. It is she who is the object of beauty in the title, and we see her 'value' rise and fall with fashion like that of a modern painting.

Immersed in its world, Martin's prose dances lightly on the plot, tasting telling details like a diligent butterfly. Wit and concision paint characters with deft strokes:

"I'm thinking of getting a dog," she said.
"What kind?" I asked.
"One that's near death."
"Less of a commitment," she answered.
He had a body shaped like a bowling pin and would sometimes accidentally dress like one, too, wearing a white suit with a wide red belt. His wife, Cornelia, was thin where he was wide, and wide where he was thin, so when they stood side by side, they fit together like Texas and Louisiana.

But this is not simply played for laughs: it's a portrait of a woman who fascinates and the damage she wreaks, largely through being herself. Like a work of art, she has a variety of impacts on those around her, and is rendered worthless by even a whiff of fakery. The novel is a sympathetic witness to the thrall that art, and other people, can exert on us. Stretching on through 9/11 and the Credit Crunch, and pleasingly illustrated by plates of many of the paintings mentioned, it's also an impressive chronicle of two heady decades among the New York cognoscenti.
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VINE VOICEon 17 February 2011
Format: HardcoverVine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
How to tell a yarn from a dressed up expose might not be the natural reaction to a work of fiction but Steve Martin gets us guessing. Such is his knowledge for art and of the art world, it would seem to those of us that haven't, an obvious question. "An Object of Beauty" has the hallmark of a work of passion with a big thick sweep of his literary paintbrush and a few fine lines for definition.

That the novel has a smattering of real and fictional characters adds some reality of sorts whilst hinting that others may just be being lampooned. Sadly for many, and this is very much an American novel, the jokes may be passing by at some imperceptible speed. Even so, without an art history degree or a New York pedigree, there's enough here to keep the casual reader amused and entertained.

What is clear is how Martin's amiable, easy charm Hollywood and musician persona continues into his writing. He has a very real ability as an author and a turn of phrase that's often clever without trying too hard and witty to prompt many a wry smile. But this is far from a comedy, and art aside, more a gentle observation of manners and ambition.

"An Object of Beauty" isn't going to reach any bestseller lists or win awards. There's mini plots of art dealing shenanigans and a track through the central character's emotional disorder, set against a backdrop of glitzy New York but including 9/11 and the subprime crisis. All in all it's inoffensive and mildly educating, justifying that one day Steve Martin will find his blockbuster muse. That may just be on the varnished surface as who knows if there are people in the real world lamenting the rip roaring guffaws from those in the know...
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