An Object of Beauty: A Novel by Steve Martin (Hachette Audio,$34.98)
An Object of Beauty is the first novel I’ve read by Steve Martin. I’ve enjoyed Martin’s comedy and movies for years, and I wasn’t quite sure what to expect from him as an author. What I discovered was a very well written, intriguing novel about the art world in New York City in the 1990’s and 2000’s. My husband loves to talk about how Steve Martin is one of the premier banjo players in the country. With his music, comedy, acting, and writing, I think it is safe to say that Steve Martin is a true renaissance man.
An Object of Beauty has one of the most unusual heroines that I’ve had the pleasure to read about. In the vein of Scarlett O’Hara or Catherine Earnshaw, Lacey Yeager is a strong-willed woman who cares mostly about herself and getting ahead at the cost of those who get in her way. Yet, she is fascinating to read about. I really enjoyed this book and couldn’t stop listening to Lacey’s story.
An Object of Beauty is narrated by Lacey’s friend Daniel. Daniel once had a casual fling with Lacey, but now meets her occasionally as a friend and fellow art lover. While Daniel writes for an art magazine, Lacey works her way up the chain of the art world to own her own gallery. Lacey’s rise to the top is filled with scheming and intrigue, and involves at least one mystery that is finally resolved at the end of the story. Lacey has learned to find art an “object of money” rather than an “object of beauty” and she lets this passion control all even if it costs her the love of her life.
Lacey’s journey was fascinating and I especially loved how the art world and Lacey’s place in it paralleled the major events of our time. This included the rise of the markets in the 90’s and early 00’s and the crash at the end of the decade. Lacey’s experience on 9/11 was quite intriguing and I couldn’t turn the CD off at that point! I also didn’t know how this affected the art world. I know next to nothing about art and I loved Martin’s detailed explanation of how the art world works. It was interesting and never boring.
I listened to the audiobook as read by Campbell Scott. He did a fair job as a narrator and stood in for me as Steve Martin narrating the novel.
Laura Arlt Gerold
Used by permission. You can read more reviews by Laura Arlt Gerold at the brilliantly titled Laura’s Reviews, http://lauragerold.blogspot.com/ .
A review copy of the audiobook was provided by the publisher.
How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly by Connie May Fowler
“Life is too short, the ghost knew, for a woman to waste it on a man who did not know how to love.”
This is a very entertaining novel about personal liberation. Our protagonist is the interestingly named Clarissa Burden, a novelist who is burdened by being married to “an amoral and dangerous man.” Clarissa lives in an ancient home in south Florida that’s also inhabited by a family of ghosts (ghosts being the biggest trend in current fiction behind vampires) and thinking animals and insects. Fowler makes quite clear that this story of one woman gaining freedom is meant to be symbolic of something far larger: “Hers was not so much a private, primal scream as it was a release of all the vicissitudes that all women through all time had ever experienced. Subservience wasn’t their game.”
This serio-comic novel is uplifting while also being quite a fun read. Not only do we have human ghosts, we also have a ghost fly that’s in love with Clarissa – the woman who killed him – and we have circus dwarfs, mistakenly referred to by Clarissa as midgets. As with Audrey Niffenegger, Fowler saves some of her best writing for the descriptions of the ghost of Olga Villada, the first owner of the home she lives in: “Olga spun toward the middle of the room… She began to whirl, faster and faster…” Clarissa stood “in the shadow of a whirling ghost.”
Clarissa’s ancient home is “full of haunts” but this is less disturbing to her than her husband’s lusting after other women (primarily young ones) and her difficulty in resuming her previously successful writing career. She no longer experiences “the same feeling she experienced in the old days when she was writing and writing well, when she knew the next word she typed would be not simply an okay word or a good word, but the only word in all the English language that would do.”
Clarissa leads a frustrated life of writer’s block and blocked emotions until she meets a young male writer, a prior acquaintance, who shows her the path to freedom. However, don’t fear as this tale never gets too serious or too preachy… In fact, it concludes with a hilarious shaggy-dog story-type ending involving the dwarfs’ circus and an adventurous dog that will make a perfect ending for a film version.
Reading How Clarissa Burden Learned to Fly is like taking a nice cooling shower on a hot and muggy day in southern Florida. Refreshing!
Reprinted courtesy of the New York Journal of Books.
Flipping Out: A Lomax and Biggs Mystery
by Marshall Karp
Flipping houses takes on a whole new meaning in this, the third Lomax and Biggs mystery from Marshall Karp (Cut, Paste, Kill; The Rabbit Factory). Karp is a playwright and screen writer who makes good use of his background. The Flipping Out plot centers on several poker-playing Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD) detectives, their spouses and a mystery writer with more nerve than a bad tooth. This is a wild and crazy tale comprised of standup comedy lines and relationship banter set inside the Home and Garden TV premise that a profit can be made from fixing up houses and selling them quickly. Real world flipping activities have been seriously curtailed by the current economic slump but this is not – fortunately for the reader – the real world.
The spin on the basic concept employed by the mystery writer, who happens to be the mother-in-law of one of the detectives, gets around the real estate slump by adding an only in LA feature. The house being flipped is the setting of a murder – in one of her novels! The open house staging is complete with an outline of the body, crime scene tape and a story-board in each room describing the action in the book.
Although the body count adds up quickly, there’s nothing at all scary about Flipping Out; rather, Karp indulges himself by reeling in his reader through many layers of plot and a teaser crime solution part way through the story.
Who knew that LA Homicide duty could be so funny? A unique and enjoyable read!
Review by Ruta Arellano. A review copy was provided by Minotaur Books.