An Object of Beauty
What was delightful about actor-writer Steve Martin's novella, Shopgirl, was its time-out-of-time quality, which rendered it both quaint and universal. His new novel, An Object of Beauty (Grand Central), while specifically about the New York art world at the end of the 20th century, has a similar appeal. At the heart of the story is the now-platonic relationship between Lacey Yeager—who, even as a 20-year-old art student, had the "pizzazz of a Broadway star"—and the mild-mannered Daniel, with whom she slept "exactly once." Daniel, an aspiring art critic, is still in Lacey's thrall; he's her confidant through tawdry love affairs, sordid gallery politics, and shady business deals. Eventually, though, even he must face the truth about Lacey: While she is ambitious, smart, and stylish, she's possessed of a self-centeredness that all too often passes for charm. In other words, she is exactly like the world she inhabits—chic on the surface but full of darkness underneath. "I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager," Daniel warns us at the start of this morality tale. The thing is, Martin's perceptions are so dead-on, we can't stop thinking about her.
— Sara Nelson