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An Object of Beauty: A Novel Hardcover – November 23, 2010

3.6 out of 5 stars 294 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

From Publishers Weekly

Martin compresses the wild and crazy end of the millennium and finds in this piercing novel a sardonic morality tale. Lacey Yeager is an ambitious young art dealer who uses everything at her disposal to advance in the world of the high-end art trade in New York City. After cutting her teeth at Sotheby's, she manipulates her way up through Barton Talley's gallery of "Very Expensive Paintings," sleeping with patrons, and dodging and indulging in questionable deals, possible felonies, and general skeeviness until she opens her own gallery in Chelsea. Narrated by Lacey's journalist friend, Daniel Franks, whose droll voice is a remarkable stand-in for Martin's own, the world is ordered and knowable, blindly barreling onward until 9/11. And while Lacey and the art she peddles survive, the wealth and prestige garnered by greed do not. Martin (an art collector himself) is an astute miniaturist as he exposes the sound and fury of the rarified Manhattan art world. If Shopgirl was about the absence of purpose, this book is about the absence of a moral compass, not just in the life of an adventuress but for an entire era. (Nov.) (c)
Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.

From Bookmarks Magazine

Critics admired Steve Martin for being a Renaissance man—after all, there are few comedians and actors who are also serious (and successful) writers. And most agreed that An Object of Beauty, more than a simple comic tale, is both a smart satire and a serious novel of manners. Martin shares his ample knowledge of Lacey’s profession and the art world; indeed, his ruminations enlightened more than a few reviewers. Some critics, however, found the novel lacking. Complaints ranged from flat prose to a confused plot, a nearly invisible first person narrator, an unlikable Lacey, some tangential plot lines, and prosaic discussions of art. Still, even the detractors admitted that the book’s premise “is a good one, filled with all sorts of juicy potential” (Guardian). In the end, An Object of Beauty, enhanced by color reproductions of famous paintings, should delight most readers—art aficionados or not.

Product Details

  • Hardcover: 304 pages
  • Publisher: Grand Central Publishing; 1st edition (November 23, 2010)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0446573647
  • ISBN-13: 978-0446573641
  • Product Dimensions: 6.2 x 1 x 9.2 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.8 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 3.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (294 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #303,364 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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More About the Author

Steve Martin, one of the most diversified performers in the motion picture industry today--actor, comedian, author, playwright, producer, musician - has been successful as a writer of and performer in some of the most popular movies of recent film history.

In March of 2010, Martin, along with Alec Baldwin, co-hosted the 82nd Annual Academy Awards - his third time serving as host of the prestigious award show.

On January 31st, 2010, Steve Martin's banjo album, The Crow / New Songs For The Five-String Banjo, won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Christmas 2009 saw Martin share the screen with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in Universal's "It's Complicated." The comedy, directed by Nancy Meyers, tells the story of a divorced couple (Streep and Baldwin) who discover that their feelings for one another might not have completely disappeared. Martin plays Adam, the soft-spoken and sweet architect who also vies for Street's characters' affection.

In 2008, Martin had two books published: In October, Doubleday released a children's book titled The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z!, co-written with fellow The New Yorker illustrator Roz Chast. In December, Martin's autobiography, Born Standing Up, was published by Scribner.

Additionally, in December of 2007, Martin was the recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor.

In February 2006, Martin was seen in "The Pink Panther" playing the role of Inspector Clouseau, originally made famous by Peter Sellers. The film, which reunites Martin with director Shawn Levy, costarred Beyonce Knowles and Kevin Kline. In 2009, Mr. Martin will revived his role of Inspector Clouseau in "The Pink Panther 2."

In 2005, Martin received critical praise for the Touchstone Pictures film "Shopgirl," costarring Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman. The screenplay was written by Martin and adapted from his best-selling novella of the same name. "Shopgirl" follows the complexities of a romance between a young girl, who works at a Los Angeles Saks Fifth Avenue glove counter while nurturing dreams of being an artist, and a wealthy older man, who is still learning about the consequences that come with any romantic relationship.

Christmas 2003, Martin starred in the highest grossing film of his career, "Cheaper by the Dozen," directed by Shawn Levy for 20th Century Fox. The family comedy, co-starring Bonnie Hunt and Hillary Duff, has grossed over $135 million domestically. Christmas 2005 saw the much anticipated sequel "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" staring the original cast and adding in a rival family, headed by Eugene Levy. In February of 2003, Martin starred with Queen Latifah in the blockbuster comedy, "Bringing Down the House" for Touchstone Pictures which gross $132.7 million.

Mr. Martin hosted the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003, his second time handling those duties, the first being the 73rd Oscars. The 75th Annual Academy Awards was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, including a nomination for "Outstanding Individual Performance In a Variety or Music Program".

Born in Waco, Texas and raised in Southern California, Mr. Martin became a television writer in the late 1960's, winning an Emmy Award for his work on the hit series "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." By the end of the decade he was performing his own material in clubs and on television.

Launched by frequent appearances on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," Mr. Martin went on to host several shows in the innovative "Saturday Night Live" series and to star in and co-write four highly rated television specials. When performing on national concert tours, he drew standing-room-only audiences in some of the largest venues in the country. He won Grammy Awards for his two comedy albums, "Let's Get Small" and "A Wild and Crazy Guy," and had a gold record with his single "King Tut." In 2003, Martin also won a Grammy® Award for Best country instrumentalist for his playing on Earl Scruggs 75th Anniversary album.

Mr. Martin's first film project, "The Absent-Minded Waiter," a short he wrote and starred in, was nominated for a 1977 Academy Award. In 1979, he moved into feature films, co-writing and starring in "The Jerk," directed by Carl Reiner. In 1981, he starred opposite Bernadette Peters in Herbert Ross' bittersweet musical comedy, "Pennies From Heaven."

The actor then co-wrote and starred in the 1982 send-up of detective thrillers, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" and the science fiction comedy "The Man With Two Brains," both directed by Carl Reiner. In 1984, Mr. Martin received a Best Actor Award from both the New York Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review for his performance opposite Lily Tomlin in "All of Me," his forth collaboration with writer/director Carl Reiner.

In 1987, his motion picture hit, "Roxanne," a modern adaptation of the Cyrano de Bergerac legend, garnered Martin not only warm audience response, but also a Best Actor Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and Best Screenplay Award from the Writer Guild of America. Mr. Martin was also the executive producer on the film.

In 1988, he costarred with Michael Caine in the hit comedy film "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," his second feature collaboration with director Frank Oz (the first being "Little Shop of Horrors"). In 1989, he starred with Mary Steenburgen and Diane Wiest in Ron Howard's affectionate family comedy, "Parenthood" for Universal Pictures.

In 1991, Mr. Martin wrote, starred in and co-executive produced the critically acclaimed comedy, "L.A. Story," a motion picture about a love story set in Los Angeles. That same year he made a cameo appearance in Lawrence Kasdan's critically lauded "Grand Canyon" and starred with Diane Keaton in the hit Disney film "Father Of The Bride," receiving the People's Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Motion Picture for the latter. In 1992, he starred in the Universal comedy feature "Housesitter," opposite Goldie Hawn, winning the People's Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy, for the second year in a row.

In 1996, he starred again with Diane Keaton in the hit sequel to "Father of the Bride," and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. In 1997, he received universal critical acclaim for his riveting performance in director David Mamet's thriller, "The Spanish Prisoner."

Mr. Martin wrote and starred in the hilarious 1999 feature comedy, "Bowfinger," opposite Eddie Murphy for Director Frank Oz. The film was showcased at the Deauville International Film Festival.

Mr. Martin's other films include classic comedies like Frank Oz's "Little Shop of Horrors," in which he played a demented dentist; John Hughes' "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," co-starring John Candy and the comic Western send-up "The Three Amigos" co-staring Marin Short and Chevy .

In the fall of 1993, Mr. Martin's first original play, the comedy-drama "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," was presented by Chicago's prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre. Following rave reviews and an extended run in Chicago, the play was presented successfully in Boston and Los Angeles, and then Off-Broadway in New York at the Promenade Theatre, to nationwide critical and audience acclaim. It has since been, and continues to be, mounted in productions worldwide. "WASP" a one act play that Martin wrote, was first performed at the Public Theatre in NY in 1995. "The Underpants," a dark comedy Mr. Martin adapted from the 1911 play by Carl Sterneim, premiered Off-Broadway at the Classic Stage Company on April 4, 2002.

In 1996, Mr. Martin was honored with a retrospective of his work, by the American Film Institute's Third Decade Council at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. He was also presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony. In 2004 Martin was honored for his film work by the American Cinematheque.

A selection of paintings from his extensive, private, modern art collection was given a special exhibition at the Bellagio Hotel gallery in Las Vegas in 2000, with catalog notes written for the show my Mr. Martin.

After the success of his first novella Shopgirl Mr. Martin's second novella, "The Pleasure of My Company," published by Hyperion, once again was ranked on best seller lists around the country including the New York Times. He has written a best selling collection of comic pieces, Pure Drivel, and his work frequently appears in The New Yorker and the New York Times.

He lives in New York City and Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Many readers are going to enjoy this rich, wise and entertaining novel, especially those of you who happen to be:

- A part of the art world. "An Object of Beauty" is a closely-observed story that traces the rise and fall of a young business woman in New York City, from 1993 to 2009. It is set in a corner of the commercial arena that traffics in works of fine art. If you work or play in the world of artists, art dealers, gallery owners, auction houses and their supporting enterprises; or if you are simply a curious outsider interested in what Martin calls "this insular collective" -- then "An Object of Beauty" is sure to please. During the course of a well-constructed tale, Martin holds a mirror up to the art community's denizens and their transgressions. If this is unfamiliar territory, you'll want to be in "learning mode" as Martin (himself an experienced buyer, seller, and lover of art) pauses the narrative from time to time to deliver a mini art history lesson next to an illustration of a painting or sculpture (there are 22 in all) important to the developing plot. On a practical note, he also offers tips on how to negotiate your way through this strange jungle. Martin names names and reveals prices (throughout the novel there is a Balzac-like focus on the prices of everything).

- A collector. Although the reader's attention is on the wily plots of the young careerist Lacey Yeager, and secondarily on the fate of her friend Daniel (an art critic and the story's narrator), the author also populates the book with a parade of minor characters who suffer from the collecting disease. They occupy a spectrum from the savvy and methodical to the passionate, obsessive, and borderline insane.
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Let me begin this review by saying that I have loved Steve Martin's previous books, most especially "Shopgirl". When I read that book I simply could not believe that Steve Martin, a comedian and actor, had the chops to write such a terrific novel. Hence, I had high hopes for this new book going in. Unfortunately it didn't quite reach my expectations.

This book is part novel and part CliffsNotes on trends in art collecting over the past 20 years or so. I'm not involved in the art world in any way, shape, or form. So, from the angle of being a primer on recent art fads, I found this book to be quite educational. Martin gives some interesting perspective on art and artists, even including photos of the artwork that he discusses in the text. I found this to be extremely helpful and it made the book more interesting to read. I don't know if those in the art community would agree with this point of view, but I did find it educational. The problem with the book is actually its plot, which is anemic at best.

The story is focused on Lacey Yeager, an up-and-coming Manhattanite on the art auctioning and dealing side of things and who seems to single-handedly represent the art movement from the early `90s to the current era. This puts a huge burden on the young woman's shoulders and leaves her bereft of much in the way of characterization. Though we learn that Lacey is tough, ambitious, and sexually uninhibited, we don't get much of a feel for what makes her tick in the first place. The story hints at something `bad' that she's done in collusion with the narrator of the book; but the slow reveal is actually glacial and the payoff is not exactly surprising or even all that interesting.
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The actor and comedian Steve Martin has written a novel, AN OBJECT OF BEAUTY, that captures the contemporary art scene in all its sordid, devastating brilliance.

Once a generation, it seems, the art world comes under a scathing literary attack of satire that puts artists, collectors, dealers and art institutions in their proper place. Tom Wolfe did in 1975 in his savage satirical essay, "The Painted Word," to wit:

"Each new movement, each new ism in Modern Art was a declaration by the artists that they had a new way of seeing, which the rest of the world (read: the bourgeoisie) couldn't comprehend," wrote Wolfe. "'We understand!' said the culturati, thereby separating themselves also from the herd. But what inna namea Christ were the artists seeing? This was where theory came in. A hundred years before Art Theory had merely been something that enriched one's conversation in matters of Culture. Now it was an absolute necessity. It was no longer background music, it was an essential hormone in the mating ritual."

Compared to Wolfe, Martin at least has the courtesy to cloak his satirical criticism in fiction. His satire is kinder, gentler than Wolfe's outright attack on the fickle nature of modern art. That said, Martin's breezy but riveting contemporary tale of the art world is no less vital than Wolfe's harsh style. There is a lot of uncomfortable truth on the nature of art in both books.

Martin is a serious art collector and he clearly knows the world of art - as he should after spending millions of dollars on acquiring art. His knowledge of the art world is on display throughout this nuanced book.

The plot lines in AN OBJECT OF BEAUTY are, penetrating.
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