Fans of Steve Martin might at first be disappointed when they note that the talented actor, writer, and musician doesn’t narrate his latest work himself. But once they hear Campbell Scott’s voice, their minor distress will be assuaged. Whether by nature or by practice, Scott’s voice is a near replica of Martin’s a baritone with a slightly nasal quality that rarely rises or falls in pitch, but still inexplicably conveys incredible depths of emotion.
An Object of Beauty thoroughly entrenches readers in the subculture of the Manhattan art world by following Lacey Yeager, a young, morally ambiguous art dealer who will do anything to make her mark and make her millions in the fine art business. Narrator Daniel Franks is an aspiring art writer and friend and witness to Lacey’s life and accidental co-conspirator to a misdeed that could ruin both their careers. Yet, like most people in Lacey’s life, Franks is drawn into her web willingly, due to her uncanny ability to beguile men, from wealthy art collectors to FBI agents a skill that aids her speedy ascension in her career.
Thanks to Scott’s pitch-perfect performance, Martin’s presence is felt and not missed throughout the reading. The subtle humor is sharp and the plot is driven forward by the desire to uncover where the boundaries of Lacey’s integrity lie if there are any. Part mystery, part intriguing character study, Martin’s latest creates a dilemma for the listener you don’t like the protagonist, yet you can’t help but want to know more about her and the sometimes seedy world in which she dwells. Colleen Oakley
Lacey Yeager is young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the New York art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby's and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Her ascension to the highest tiers of the city parallel the soaring heights - and, at times, the dark lows - of the art world and the country from the late 1990s through today.
©2010 Steve Martin (P)2010 Hachette
"Martin compresses the wild and crazy end of the millennium and finds in this piercing novel a sardonic morality tale." (Publishers Weekly)
"[A] clever, convincingly detailed depiction of NYC’s art scene." (Booklist)
I am really enjoying this book so far. Steve Martin is such an intelligent observer of human nature and human behavior, and he's a very good writer. It's hard to believe that a man can write women characters so convincingly, but as was the case with his last book, he manages to capture something elemental and true to female behavior, dress, ways of thinking. I'm not saying all women are like the main character in this novel (thank goodness!) but the main character rings true to me as a woman, as was the case with his last novel's female protagonist. He's a great observer of women's mannerisms and styles. I live in NY, and though I am not a scholar or collector of fine art, it seems to me he captures the NY art and gallery/auction scene as it was during this time period. It's a great, well-observed and well-described glimpse into a world that few of us have the money, time or life experience to enter and I'm finding the story line so far compelling, entertaining and suspenseful even if I wouldn't want to be friends with the main character. She has a certain magnetism and the suspense that carries the story along is equal parts what will she do next and what will happen to her. Clearly Steve Martin knows this world of NYC art, fashion, neighborhoods, personalities from the inside and it's a kind of a buzz hearing him describe things so aptly. I recommend it if you find these things interesting, or if you want to see the surprising literary range of a good actor and comedian.
Steve Martin's an excellent writer, with a meticulous eye for detail and nuance. And his own brand of wit and humor had me laughing out loud several times.
The story is rather shallow, though, with an endless supply of characters running here and there, buying and selling "objects of beauty" and shmoozing in the service of same. Characters appear and disappear without warning or context, and they seem to have nothing to think about except the current prices for art in the New York galleries, and of course the sexual escapades that go along with all the trafficking. Said trafficking takes place much of the time in restaurants, of which there is ample description as well.
It appears that Steve either has a very thorough knowledge of art history, or he has researched the vast subject extensively.
I'm not a fan of books that have a lot of conversation, and this book is overloaded - have to say I did not finish. Just became too tired of all the vanities and trivial chit chat. But it's all entertaining if you like that sort of thing.
I honestly write these reviews in a spirit of sharing and helpfulness. I have no idea why I always end up sounding so snotty...
Let me just say, to get it out of the way, that Campbell Scott's voice is sweetness sparked with thrill. I love his recordings with perfect impurity, and would like (please) many many more.
I loved the book too.
It expertly uses a forgettable narrator (lifted from Fitzgerald, I reckon) to expose one of our world's great divisions: the morally upright versus the charmingly corrupt. Pick your side, because you won't like being stuck in the middle. Poor guy. The last line of this novel broke my heart, and made me start listening all over again.
I'm familiar with New York, love Art Museums, took art history classes in school, and don't miss Steve's wilder crazier side. That's my bias.
As an artist and museum volunteer acquainted with the New York based art world, I had fun listening to this book. Steve Martin clearly knows art and has been a good sport on the round of interviews introducing his book. I loved that he made mention of the legendary art book dealer and expert, Peter Krauss, a really cool guy. It's just delightful to follow the creative exploits of this author, already high on my list for his comedic, movie and banjo! accomplishments.
Very nice descriptive character development, however, after waiting for the protagonist to get into serious trouble, Steve pulls his punches. I enjoyed the listen since it was leading to the conclusion based on external forces not the main character's efforts.. All the risks of the protagonist, made her a success until the environment changed her situation.
An Object of Beauty is a really appealing book for a number of reasons:
Campbell Scott is a masterful narrator. He has a great range of voices at his disposal, and uses them very appropriately.
The story itself is well-written, with interesting characters.
Steve Martin's knowledge of the art world is thorough. He is able to weave real and fictitious artists through the narrative in a way that feels fluid, never forced.
This book is a really great listen, and I would recommend it for anyone who's a fan of good fiction, the art world or a character-driven book.
I loved Lacie Yager.
I love Campbell Sott.
I love Steve Martin.
I have listened to this book several times.
Steve Martin is a magical writer, who knew? If you love art, NYC, youthful attitudes and travel, you will love this book.
I really enjoyed Shop Girl and although An Object of Beauty was entertaining I didn't like it half as much. It wasn't my favorite audio book.
I can't believe I made it through this one. Martin presents the recent history of the art world in a 101 manner, a lot of facts given over in an almost didactic tone. I found the lead female character so ridiculously flat and unbelievable. She is a sexual fantasy of a character, and absolutely devoid of any real complexity. All of the characters were flat and cartoonish. ! found myself annoyed to the point of grunting out loud to some of the worst passages. I don't think I'll be able to try another book by martin.
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