It is with a heavy heart that I give Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty a thumbs down. I have thoroughly enjoyed his other books - Shopgirl and The Pleasure of My Company. Martin has a gift for creating quirky, tender characters who steal your heart. He has not done that here.
AOOB purports to tell the story of a fascinating young woman who captivates everyone she meets as she climbs the social ladder of the 1990’s art scene. On page 136, a man she’s “dating” asks her if she realizes that she’s never said one thing to him that isn’t banter.
And that pretty much sums up the problem with main character Lacey Yeager. I don’t care about her because she doesn’t care about anything. (By the way, she does not respond to this man by having any sort of revelation and letting her guard down to show us that she is actually a real person. She simply responds with more banter.) She takes nothing seriously; she wants nothing of importance; she has not one relationship that appears to mean anything to her. She’s vacant.
The narrator seems to be her closest friend, and yet it’s unclear if she even cares about him or if she just enjoys having him as an audience and partner in crime. He alludes to some borderline illegal activity they’re involved in, and the mystery hangs over the story for the next hundred pages or so. But in the end, it doesn’t matter because I don’t care about her. I don’t care what she did or why she did it or whether she gets caught. There’s nothing at stake here.
This book is full of dull, paragraph long descriptions of paintings, sometimes accompanied by prints of the paintings themselves. Anecdotes that don’t involve any central characters. Art history tangents and long-winded explanations of the business of art. If I hadn’t paid full price for this book, I wouldn’t finish it.