Thought I wasn’t gonna do this? Thought I wasn’t gonna keep my word? Thought I was gonna disappoint? Ha! Fat chance, I’m doing these challenges, baby. Nothing but God can keep me from it!
Okay, that was turrible. Let’s get on with the post, shall we? So as you can see above (and I mean above the Color Purple .gif), the book I’ve chosen as The Best Book I’ve Read This Year is An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin. It came out around the holidays last year but I didn’t actually get around to it until earlier this summer. And since I haven’t posted a review of the novel, now’s as good a time as any.
For those unfamiliar, An Object of Beauty tells the story of Lacey Yeager, a social and professional climber in New York City’s art scene. Lacey has no real love for art, but she does want the spoils of success in the field, namely owning a gallery that showcases only the hottest, most sought after pieces. Alas, Lacey is struggling in a lowly, thankless position at Sotheby’s and recognizes that her charms are not enough to elevate her to the status she desires. And so Lacey does what anyone would do if given the chance—she hits one hell of a lick.
What’s that? You don’t understand what that means? Oh, I’m sorry. Here. Urban Dictionary defines the phrase “hit a lick“ thusly: “To gain a shit load of mony [sic] in a short amount of time.” That’s precisely what Lacey does.
Now don’t worry, I haven’t spoiled anything for you. Knowing that Lacey comes into a small fortune isn’t ruining any mystery; how she does it, however, is a bit of a puzzle and she doesn’t do it in the way most (small-minded) people would assume. In any case, due to her newfound fourtune, Lacey is able to get a new apartment and begin her ascent through the ranks of NYC’s prominent art dealers before finally opening her own gallery.
An Object of Beauty is told in first person by Daniel Franks, a freelance journalist who seems to know a hell of a lot of intimate details about Lacey’s life. The two characters are old college buddies who, despite having slept together once, maintain a close, platonic relationship. I thought at first that Daniel may have been harboring some deep, romantic feelings for Lacey, but it was refreshing to discover that, no, he actually was not. Daniel finds himself smitten with another young woman; alas, as things tend to do in these sort of tales, things get a little messy.
There are three things I loved about An Object of Beauty. First, it’s not your typical tale of love and romance in New York City. Given its characters, their careers, the setting, etc., Beauty has all the ingredients of an archetypical chick-lit novel. Yet Martin doesn’t traverse down that well-trodden path. In Lacey, he’s created a character whose ultimate love is professional success. Yeah, sure, Lacey sleeps around, has dalliances with several men, but even when making love she’s emotionally distant. Sex, fucking, love, they’re all afterthoughts. Romance is not on her mind, kids.
Second, I love Martin’s writing. His prose style is melancholic, formal, refined. I dig it. It worked well in his novella Shopgirl, and it’s perfect for Beauty. He’s not only able to capture Lacey’s coldness but also that of the art scene in which she is deeply entrenched.
Finally, I love how Lacey’s story paralleled mine at the time I was reading it. If you recall, I was on the verge of losing everything—my home, my life, my mind. Lacey finds herself in a similar situation. And though she’s able to hit a lick (I used it again, feel free to incorporate it into you dialogue at work tomorrow), Lacey’s ultimate fate is one I still fear may happen to me. So, it could be said that An Object of Beauty works, at least for me on a personal level, as an Aesop.
It’s the combination of these things that made An Object of Beauty such an enjoyable read for me. It was a relatable story told well, and, really, that’s all one can hope for when picking up a new novel.
Have you read An Object of Beauty? If you have, what are your thoughts on it? And if you haven’t, does it sound like something you’d be interested in checking out? LMK in the comments below.