Thursday, December 09, 2010

Steve Martin and An Object of Beauty

Steve Martin at a book signing for An Object of Beauty in New York and, left, the US cover

• “I’ve never met anyone who collects cynically”
Not content with being an acclaimed comedian and actor, a musician nifty with a banjo and the author of number of books of fact and fiction, Steve Martin has written a novel set in the art world.
An Object of Beauty is the tale of eager young thing Lacey Yeager who trades her way up from Sotheby’s basement to a space of her own via some dodgy dealing, a rich collector as a lover and association with a rising star artist exquisitely named Pilot Mouse.
It’s an engaging story peppered with real-world references: Martin is clearly familiar with the world of collectors, dealers and auctions and does himself no harm whatsoever by namechecking this publication.
A cover comment by the novelist Joyce Carol Oates compares the book to those of Edith Wharton. It’s an overstated comparison, but you know what she means—Martin has set out to examine the Zeitgeist, and the mores of the bourgeoisie through the medium of a flawed protagonist, as did Wharton.
Are modern times kinder to those who fall from grace? In Wharton's The Age of Innocence, May Welland endures a loveless marriage before an untimely death. The House of Mirth’s Lily Bart expires from an overdose of sleeping potion after a slow and unjust decline in social standing. For Martin’s Lacey Yeager, her destiny is the closure of her gallery, exile to Atlanta and a job with Elton John. Who’s to say which is the worse fate?

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