Friday, February 11, 2011

Object of Beauty

I've said before how much of a fan I am of Steve Martin. I really enjoyed his first two novels, The Pleasure of My Company and Shopgirl. Since then, though, I have been disappointed with his books Pure Drivel and, now, An Object of Beauty.

An Object of Beauty traces the life of Lacey Yeager as she makes her way through the art world during the 1990's and 2000's. The book is told by her friend who works as an art writer.

The novel starts as being about Lacey but as the book goes on, Martin spends more and more time talking about the conditions of the art world, especially in New York City. It gets to the point where the final third to half of the book almost reads more as non-fiction. In the final chapter, even, the narrator says that he may just make some changes and publish the book as non-fiction.

This is one of the reasons I didn't like it. It could have been a good novel. It could have been a good treatise on the business of art. Combined, it didn't work for me. I also didn't like how Martin portrayed Lacey. If you listed Lacey's interests in life, art would be first, sex would be second and everything else wouldn't make the cut. She could have been made more admirable - woman works her way up through the male-dominated art world through skill, intelligence, charm and perseverance - but Martin's focus on Lacey's relationships with men covers up anything positive and makes her sort of sleazy (along with some other things she does). I didn't find her to be likable at all. I also didn't like the layout of the chapters. They were extremely short and did not flow well into one another in the least.

Martin is knowledgeable about art and it definitely comes through in this book. I almost wonder if he had to make it a novel because no publisher would take him seriously if he tried to do a work of non-fiction on art. It's sort of a shame because there is a lot of good stuff in the book. The book also is nice in that it shows many of the works of art that are mentioned in the story.

For me, the negatives outweighed the positives and I'm disappointed that after such a great beginning as a writer, I feel Martin has tailed off.

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