Some people have all the talent, and Steve Martin appears to be one of the lucky few. An actor, comedian, musician and author, Martin somehow manages the incredible feat of being a master of all trades. Martin’s conquest of the publishing world is not a new one, but with his latest novel, An Object of Beauty, he makes it abundantly clear that he is a writer with some serious literary chops.
In the tradition of the great American novel, An Object of Beauty chronicles the rise and fall of a determined dreamer whose aspirations are larger than life. Lacey Yeager is a young woman who enters the 1990s art world working in the bowels of Sotheby’s auction house. With dogged persistence, a healthy dose of charisma and some questionable dealings in a bid to get ahead, Lacey’s star soon begins to rise as she slowly navigates and ascends to the upper echelons of the New York art scene. Alas, Lacey is very much a creature of an all-too-brief moment in time—dazzling while at her pinnacle, but ultimately embodying an exhilarating moment in art history that cannot be sustained.
Despite its modern setting and concerns, An Object of Beauty is very much an old-fashioned novel at its core, one built on strong storytelling and alluring prose. Martin writes with the confidence and skill of other masters of American letters; the novel could easily hold center stage alongside writers such as Henry James or Edith Wharton, in terms of both content and tone. Lacey Yeager is Lily Bart, or even Jay Gatsby, born anew in modern America. Martin infuses his novel with the gusto and ken of a true art aficionado, yet the story is accessible and enjoyable regardless of the reader’s own artistic background. Even if you don’t know your Monet from your Manet, much of what Martin writes—like the evanescent American dream—is universal in its appeal.
Having already won awards for his television writing and banjo stylings, it seems only a matter of time before Martin starts earning book awards, too—thanks, in large part, to the remarkable An Object of Beauty.