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VINE VOICEon 20 December 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine 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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TOP 1000 REVIEWERon 18 February 2011
The hardest part about this novel was trying not to hear the words as though spoken in Steve Martin`s voice, and also remembering that the narrator is called Daniel; again, not Steve Martin. I guess there is always the chance that what one knows of an author will infiltrate how you view and hear their work, and I certainly feel that Steve Martin can and has been funny over his career (at times).
That aside, I would be lying if I said I flew through this in a matter of days and that it was an amazing read. It isn`t like that at all as it`s a fairly low key novel, with very few major events, and the structure seems to lend itself to dipping in and out of (sixty eight short chapters makes it easy to put down). I did enjoy it though. There are some very amusing bon mots, and the story is credible and moves across a decade in quickish time. I enjoyed the allusions to real Art, and real artists, but am unsure if this would appeal to everyone. The characters are not really fleshed out that much - the author prefers to create a mood or atmosphere and we watch how the main players interact, so in some ways it`s more of a existentialist read, which is infinitely more interesting than a standard A to B novel. So, ultimately, I`d recommend this for a number of reasons, but accept it would not appeal to everyone. But I enjoyed it.
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VINE VOICEon 13 February 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine 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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on 22 December 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine 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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VINE VOICEon 18 August 2011
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In fact, I struggled to get more than 30 pages through it. I like Steve Martin, I like (of sorts) Art; but this just was not for me. It is SO unlike me not to finish a book- but this one made me put it down and walk away. Sorry, Steve.
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on 10 January 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine 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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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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on 27 January 2011
I found the beginning of the novel hard-going, but persevered and enjoyed the novel. Patchy, yes. Thin in terms of characterisation, yes, and a little bit stereotyped and more like caricatures of the rich than real people. Some parts of the book really come alive, and the author obviously is very familiar with the art world. Sections of it are very visual, and if Martin was acting in a film of this story, the storyline throughout it would no doubt be expanded upon. In a way that's what this story needs - fleshing out. Stronger characters, a stronger more thought-through convincing plot, and more revision. Despite this criticism, I found the book very entertaining and I stayed awake late to finish it - which is rare for me. I have bought the book for others, despite the above criticisms, so maybe i just expected more from Martin. But 9/10. Very good.
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VINE VOICEon 25 December 2010
Format: Hardcover|Vine Customer Review of Free Product( What's this? )
Steve Martin's latest novel is not funny. He plays it straight in An Object of Beauty as the world chronicled within is so full of self-parody that there's little need to add extra layers of satire. Set in New York during the 1990s, the story is narrated by Daniel, an art critic and observer of the scene and friend of Lacey Yeager. Lacey is determined to get to the top however she has to do it, and through a mixture of making her looks and wardrobe work wonders for her along with her willingness to do whatever it takes (including hard work and sex) she will get her own gallery. She gets into some scrapes along the way, but being a user wriggles out of them.

What becomes clear is that true art collectors are rare things. Art and particularly contemporary art is really a commodity and once Lacey learns to look at art with dollar signs instead of an appreciative eye, she is lost - but then that's what she wanted from the start. It's a horrible world full of horrible people mostly. Daniel our narrator being on the edge comes out better than most, and you can feel enormous sympathy for the French dealer Patrice who falls for Lacey but gets spat out when he comes to the end of his usefulness.

Given that I know nothing about American contemporary art really bar Warhol, natch, it was really useful to have many of the real artworks mentioned pictured in the text. This gives the novel a more biographical feel, but was also very useful to see what they were talking about.

But all good things come to an end. The contemporary art world collapses after 9/11 and everything just fizzles out, which made a slightly damp squib of an ending to this otherwise very enjoyable story. I felt that Martin knows what he's talking about - I'd hope he's a collector though.
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VINE VOICEon 17 February 2011
Format: Hardcover|Vine 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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