Wednesday, March 30, 2011

An Object of Beauty

by Steve Martin

Lacey Yeager is a villain. When you get right down to it, you see that she wants to conquer the (art) world and doesn't care how she does it or who she hurts in the process. And I like her for it. I know, it's weird. But she was a very well-written villain which makes you root for her and yet, at the same time despise her actions.

This book follows the art movements for at least twenty years, educating the reader about what goes on behind auction-house, gallery, and museum walls. Thousands and millions of dollars are being thrown at slabs of paint, depending on what's hip at the moment. Steve Martin goes into a lot of detail and shows that he's done his homework on everything art-related. I learned a lot, along with enjoying the story of Lacey. And I loved the examples of art that he included in the book.

We even hear about how art was affected through 9/11, as well as the economic collapse a few years later. The image of Lacey biking toward downtown Manhattan while the towers were smoking is quite vivid, as was her subsequent confusion. And then, years later, when she finally decided to invest with Talley right before the recession, the reader could do nothing but shake her head at the horrible timing.

Through all of this, Lacey is very detached. She commits a crime, and doesn't feel guilty. Men fall at her feet during her rise to the top, and she stomps on their hearts. She uses her grandmother's death to her advantage. Sounds quite supervillain-ish to me...And makes me wonder about Steve Martin's "Object" of Beauty. She was beautiful, but she was an object. A thing who's only emotion is ambition (is that even an emotion?). And in the end, she falls, as most supervillains do at the end of the superhero movie.

This may seem like an odd comparison to make, but what can I say, I can be an odd person sometimes. I really enjoyed the book, despite Lacey's indifference, and I loved the narrator, Daniel. He was very modest and down-to-earth and his courtship with Tanya was adorable. But of course, Lacey had to ruin even that. It's a very quick read and you'll be done with it in no time, and be wondering how Lacey could rise and fall so very quickly.

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