100 Books

115 An Object of Beauty

Fictionists probably have a tough time choosing their narrator. There is always the challenge of justifying their omniscience and omnipresence.  So some have turned to the absurd, choosing abstract entities like Death, Dead Person, Soul, Conscious/Subconscious, Future/Unborn Being, Diary, even God.

Steve Martin does away with such concern in his “An Object of Beauty” by allowing his narrator to proclaim straight up: “If you occasionally wonder how I know about some of the events I describe in this book, I don’t know. I have found that—just as in real life—imagination sometimes has to stand in for experience.” Genius, right?

“An Object of Beauty” takes us to the sophisticated and crooked world of art dealers traders lovers collectors. But more than that, Martin resolves for me one question that has hounded me ever since I started going to exhibits: why do art galleries only have white walls? It’s because white feigns neutrality and it is supposedly loaded with meaning. A painting looks good against it, as there is only it to look at. No distractions.

One last note on “An Object of Beauty”: its characters are always bantering when they talk to each other. It’s like watching one of Martin’s films. Sometimes hilarious, sometimes flat.


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