- An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin; read by Campbell Scott
- Publisher: Hachette Audio; Unabridged edition (November 23, 2010)
- ISBN-13: 978-1607886129
Back-of-the-box blurb: Lacey Yeager is young, captivating, and ambitious enough to take the NYC art world by storm. Groomed at Sotheby’s and hungry to keep climbing the social and career ladders put before her, Lacey charms men and women, old and young, rich and even richer with her magnetic charisma and liveliness. Her ascension to the highest tiers of the city parallel the soaring heights–and, at times, the dark lows–of the art world and the country from the late 1990s through today.
She Is Too Fond of Books’ review: What a fantastic peek into the art world! We see snippets of all the players – artists (struggling and successful), critics, collectors, gallery owners, auction house workers (from the lowest rung, relegated to the basement-level “bins,” to the influential managers of the various departments). We see the cycles of the art market – how politics, world and economic events, and the whims of the taste-makers affect that market.
Behind-the-scenes, we see Lacey Yeager, and follow her from her first days in the “bins” at Sotheby’s through her many incarnations as she travels through various positions. She’s looking for her sweet spot in expertise and influence, and will stop at nothing to get there.
The novel is told from the third-person perspective of Daniel Franks, a platonic friend. At the outset, Daniel tells the reader/listener that, of course he wasn’t privvy to all the conversations and observations he’s about to relate, but that he knows enough to fill in the gaps. I was so caught up in Lacey’s story, that I often forget it wasn’t an omniscient narrator, and was pulled out of the story when I had to get a hold of the “I” that would suddenly be introduced.
This excerpt illustrates that sudden “I,” but also gives a glimpse of Lacey’s determination to rise out of the menial work at Sotheby’s:
A year and a half passed well. I had reviewed a small show for the Village Voice and had received a complimentary note from Peter Schjeldahl, who was the main critic there at the time. Lacey was moving up at Sotheby’s, literally. Frequent paperwork kept her upstairs, and she found that newcomers, mostly young white girls just off a collegiate slave boat, were being sent down the mine shaft to replace her, staggering out of the elevator hours later, with dilated eyes, happy once again to see the sun. She was kept from a significant raise on the premise that new employees were really interns learning the business, and during one of our increasingly rare lunches, she told me this: “Guess what I figured out: Sotheby’s is my yacht. It’s a money pit. I’m losing money just to work there. I can last another year and then I’m headed for whore town, which good be kind of good, depending on the outfits.”
Is Lacey obnoxious, conceited, and ruthless? Yes. Did I enjoy An Object of Beauty for the steps I was able to take in her shoes (as observed and imagined by Daniel Franks)? Yes. Is Campbell Scott’s narration well-paced, with good inflection and careful distinction of the character’s voices? Yes.
Recommended, especially for its look at the art world. The plot, although not riveting, was very good and kept me company through many miles on the treadmill.