Imagine, if you will, that you've been invited to a party at a friend's house. When you arrive, you see old and new faces and you smile, just as the host walks up to you and tells you that his friend Steve is running late. When you ask who Steve is, your host just smiles and walks off. A while later, everyone rushes towards the front door as "Steve" makes his arrival. You, however, gasp - it's Steve Martin! THE Steve Martin! After he says his hellos and gives many a handshake, you are then introduced to him by your host. He smiles, shakes your hand and says that its nice to meet you. You, on the other hand, smile nervously and try not to look foolish. He then grins and tells the party that he's got quite a story to tell. He makes his way towards the couch and sits down, just as everyone else gathers around him with their drinks and food. You sit down as well with baited breath. Someone hands him a glass of seltzer water; Steve Martin takes it, sips on it, then clears his throat and begins his story. Soon, you find yourself forgetting that you have a drink in your hand, and the others forget that their food is going cold. It's Steve Martin and the story he's telling is quite entertaining.
That's what it felt like when I read his book An Object of Beauty. From the moment I read the first lines, as written by art writer Daniel Franks, I knew I was in for a treat. This book draws you into a world that not many of us know about and if we do, we either glorify it or we try to snub it. Lacey Yaeger is a young woman living in New York in the 90s who views the art world as something to be conquered. She makes friends without a care, seduces men just for the hell of it, and finds art to be more than just paint slapped on a canvas. After her lowly start in the basement of Sotheby's, she climbs her way to the top, all the while purchasing and selling art to those with discerning tastes and money to burn. Her closest friend, Daniel, is the narrator of her life - he knows Lacey and understands her to a point, yet even he gets stumped once in a while by her actions.
Any man who gets close to her is pushed away; she refuses to be tied down to anything. Except art. To her, art is Life, her life and the way she wants to live it. Buying a Warhol for her apartment makes her feel like her clients, giving her even deeper access to the world she occupies. She rises higher and higher on the art ladder, evolving from worker in a gallery to owning one, with no end in sight. However, due to greed, thrill seeking, or the dream to take a risk (or perhaps all of the above), it all comes crashing down on her with a background of 9-11 and the stock market crash. However, Lacey is one tough cookie - if she can handle the art world, then anything else is just a bicycle ride through Central Park.
I have to admit that I actually liked Lacey; granted, I could only hang out with her for short periods of time, yet I truly liked her. She always seemed to have a foot in both worlds - the world of the rich who can afford an original Van Gogh for millions of dollars, and the college student/early adult world of secondhand furniture mingled with thrift store shopping for cocktail party dresses and seeking out the cheap restaurants where the food is too good to be true. Lacey enjoys the thrill of having sex with a patron on a balcony at a hotel, then sealing the deal on artwork once thought to be lost to the Western World. And yet, out of all of her friends, Daniel seems to understand her the best. And the worst.
Steve Martin presents the world of art in a way only he knows - funny, truthful, entertaining, and just Steve Martin. This book had me hooked from page one; I had to know what Lacey was up to every day. She reminded me of a Holly Golightly (and for those of you who don't know who that is, go read Breakfast at Tiffany's - great book and film!) - woman about town making a name for herself, and giving personal views into her life to very few people. Lacey is not and never will be part of the masses. or rather - the masses would never want her to partake in their world. And that's just fine with her.
If he does happen to read this review - Mr. Martin, PLEASE write more books. You've got a knack for it.