Thursday, 23 September 2010

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin: Lauren's Review

An Object of Beauty focuses on the ambitious and beautiful Lacey Yeager who inhabits New York’s art scene, working her way up from a lowly employee at Sotheby’s to eventually owning her own gallery. Her meteoric rise and subsequent fall after a controversial scandal are narrated through the eyes of her friend, Daniel Franks. The reader is left in no doubt that ‘the object of beauty’ refers not only to the exquisite paintings that Lacy pores over but also to Lacey herself. The novel fits into the category of intellectual chick lit as it blends stories of Lacey’s glamorous life with factual snippets on the background of paintings and the art market. Photos Martin intersperses of the paintings he describes succeed in giving the book the feel of a journal and providing gravitas to the glitz and glamour of the art world and this young beautiful employee within it.

Whilst the reader can admire Lacey for her drive and determination that lead her to ‘….the top person in the room, and her cleverness made [him] believe that he had guided himself to her,’ she is largely painted as a charismatic yet self-absorbed creature, intent on her own gain thus making her unsympathetic. Franks describes her as having the ‘pizzazz of a Broadway star’ causing a ‘moment of deflation’ when she
exits a room. Yet, it is clear her impact is carefully calculated as she attempts to be ‘…a wicked detail standing out…’ Lacey is shown to dislike those who threaten to eclipse her or prove competition as she looks down on her beautiful and clever work colleague Tanya Ross. She is also shown to mercilessly use and cast aside men for her own ends as she sleeps with those it is to her ‘advantage’ to keep ‘interested’ or
those she wishes to placate. ‘…rash with people….her body…her remarks…considered no one her peer …’ Men’s emotions are ‘pesky annoyances’ and the reader cannot but feel for Patrice who allows his lust to turn to love. It is evident that Lacey’s will, ambition and high self regard will only ever allow her to belong to
herself. ‘….watched her sink into her own thoughts, he could feel the communion slip away, and he knew that she was not his.’

Lacey’s entry into the art world is a ticket to a lifestyle. Franks describes it as ‘new collectors and personalities raging, competing, socialising…dinners and openings, invitations to fundraisers and a fluctuating, dynamic mix of people…’ Through sheer hard work Lacey ‘…develops an instinct that would burrow inside her and stay forever.’ Lacey learns the thrill and sentient beauty of a painting and wants the funds to aid her ‘…rapidly evolving taste.’ She learns to convert objects of beauty to objects of value, buying and selling paintings for profit. Ultimately, it is Lacey’s steely determination to fully belong to this world that leads her to participate in a scam that whilst making her a lot of money, costs her several jobs and her reputation. Whilst partly admiring of this reckless determination that endangers everything she holds dear, the reader is also unsympathetic to the greed it stems from that costs her family their inheritance and ultimately leaves her jobless.

Daniel Franks the narrator appears a weak and foolish man as he participates in Lacey’s scam, later blaming her for the fact that it costs him his girlfriend. He appears to be obsessed by the glittering Lacey declaring that he is forced to write about her unless he is ‘unable to ever write about anything else.’ Whilst stating that
he has never succumbed to Lacey’s ‘tentacles,’ he admits to ‘hiding envy’ for her conquests and admiring her beauty. The reader is left to assume that this man that had to introduce himself ‘…half dozen times before [his]….face started to become familiar’ and whose ‘…relationships….seemed to lack ignition’ relies on Lacey for
the drama, vitality and interest that his own life acts. Indeed, his own act of writing about Lacey, this ‘object of beauty’ is reminiscent of Lacey converting objects of beauty to objects of value. Martin suggests that Franks’ writing that could potentially increase his wealth and status through depicting his relationship with Lacey is parasitic. Although Lacey states she is not trying to be depicted as ‘…a good little girl…’ in Franks book, Franks act of sacrificial exposure that could ‘….ruin her or make her famous’ appears a cold and calculated act from a friend. Her demise, her false friend and Patrice’s belief that ‘Lacey is the kind of person that will always be okay,’ leads the reader to both respect Lacey and to hesitate in judging her too severely. Martin’s book is reminiscent of the hedonism and decadence of Fitzgerald’s novels, where the glamour and froth hides a rotting utopia.

An Object of Beauty is available to preorder and will be published on 25th of November.

Tuesday, 21 September 2010

The Quantum Thief: Guest Review by Rob

Rob is a friend of mine who is a fan of science fiction and currently has a job where he knocks people out so other people can chop them up. Here's his review for The Quantum Thief, Hannu Rajaniemi's debut scifi novel.

It's weird.

Cheers for that Rob. Glad I gave you the book to review now.

The Quantum Thief is out in about 9 days. Currently available for preorder at about £9.74.

Saturday, 11 September 2010

An Object of Beauty, Steve Martin: A Foxy Lady Sells Lots of Paintings

An object of Beauty is an enjoyable romp (and there is a fair bit of romping) through the New York art world through the 90s and early 00s. it follows the career of Lacey, the world's most beautiful woman (she seems to be that from the book), through the eyes of her friend, a dull art journalist.

Telling the story of someone through another person's eyes is a bit odd at times but the it generally ticks along quite nicely. Lacey looks at some pictures, talks to some people, shows off her brilliance. She moves up and on in the world.

The story is punctuated with pictures of the art involved which is quite good and while reading it I started noticing the Gallery adverts at train stations a lot more. I also became a lot more pretentious.

The story is broken by a mystery event early on. Lacey and the boring journalist get up to something after which Lacey becomes a lot more wealthy. It'll take you all of 2 seconds to work out what this event is. There is another mini mystery in the middle that is unsatisfactory.

So you are left with an enjoyable story about one girl who builds herself a mini art empire. Steve Martin makes the story easy to read with plenty of witty dialogue. There is a good bit of foreshadowing involving one of the pictures featured but you'll have to guess which one along with whether the title refers to Lacey or the art.

An Object of Beauty by Steve Martin is released in November. It is available for preorder now.

Cheers,

Mark

Monday, 6 September 2010

The Grinning Bridesmaid

Hi all!

I am quite excited as in 2 weeks I get to be bridesmaid for the first time at a best friend’s wedding blessing. Yesterday was spent trying on my dress alongside my other best friend who is also bridesmaid. We cooed, twirled, posed and generally would have made any self-respecting male sick with our girlish chatter. I am proud to say that I was with my friend when she met her future husband in a dank and dingy nightclub where my friend and I threw some hideous shapes and never thought they would woo her husband to be. I’m surprised my deranged grinning when they started talking didn’t deter him slightly. Full marks for perseverance. I’m sure I will be reaching for the Kleenex as I witness their blessing and telling anyone that will listen
that if it wasn’t for me, well, we wouldn’t be here!

Just hoping that I don’t fall over when walking down the aisle, sneeze inappropriately, snort with laughter or suffer any other embarrassing misfortune.

If I’ve put you in the mood for a wedding and you enjoy chick lit, why not try Katie Fforde’s novel Wedding Season which follows the life of a wedding planner who doesn’t believe in love and her two friends, also dubious about love. Follow their adventures and choice encounters. This is the perfect read for a holiday or as light escapism from work.

Finally, speaking of celebrations and suchlike, a HUGE well done to Mark who completed his 15 mile walk for the British Heart Foundation. Truly impressive. Sporty and socially minded as well as literary. I say! Have fab weeks and read lots!!

Lauren

Friday, 3 September 2010

I've Been Lurking about in the Dark

It looks smaller from Earth
The last two nights I've been getting a crick in my neck watching the International Space Station pass over head. In fact I've just come in after watching it sail serenely through the sky to the sweet music of the neighbourhood harpies discussing their disturbing sex lives.

I've been prompted into this viewing by @DrLucyRogers on twitter who has been rousing people into standing about in the cold. Make sure you wave to the ISS or she'll put the slap down on you.

Last night Lauren offered to take me up to the space station. I'm not sure how she'll manage that but Dr Lucy Roger's book It's ONLY Rocket Science might help. It is a guide to building the rocket, planning the mission and getting home again. Maybe I should buy it for Lauren to help her out...

The next pass of the ISS is tomorrow night at about 20:10, from the West. It's a steady white light that will progress from the horizon right over your head to disappear into the East. It doesn't flash like a plane.

I'm walking 15 miles on Sunday for the British Heart Foundation. Give me a couple of quid here.

Cheers,

Mark