Victoria's Reviews > An Object of Beauty

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin
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's review
Apr 12, 12

bookshelves: favorites, portrait-of-the-artist
Read from April 09 to 12, 2012


So I may be in the minority here...the extreme minority probably, because a.) I had no idea who Steve Martin was initially and b.) I have the perspective of a senior art student at MICA. Whether that is for better or worse I guess is up to you to decide. The writing is outstanding, the story is captivating, and being that I read the Campbell Scott audiobook version, the narration was perfectly framed.

An Object of Beauty is a pretty interesting push-pull between art as expression, beauty and power, versus art as a kind of commodity...for millionaires. There's also your standard dose of love, sex, drugs, and corruption, though these things are more of a delightful seasoning than the meat of the book. A note of humor and more importantly satire is definitely perceivable, though it seems to be coming from a genuine 'love of the game' place that is distanced just enough to still be capable of calling bullshit when bullshit indeed needs to be called. Even so immersed as I am in the art 'scene' (witnessing, attempting, and searching for that "1/4-inch of God"), I had to laugh and agree wholeheartedly with the "artspeak" commentary, which has become a kind of esoteric language that gets thrown around as rampantly as charcoal dust here. We call it "art sauce" and those who don't wholeheartedly embrace it would find great comic relief in Martin's critique of it. I, for one, most certainly enjoyed myself during these parts.

I can see how it would be frustrating to some readers without your basic art history background, as there is a fair amount of namedropping. For instance, if you can't tell the difference between a Picasso or a Pollock, a Matisse or a Warhol, you might want to have google image search nearby. For the most part, though, I felt Martin did a pretty decent job of writing about the art itself so the reader can get a basic idea. In fact, he's quite poetic about it.

I'm not sure if this book had more resonance for me because of the subject matter, but I will definitely be giving this a second and third read. It has officially been placed onto my 'New Favorites' shelf.

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