This chapter is a free excerpt from Quicklet on Steve Martin's An Object of Beauty.

An Object of Beauty is divided in three sections. Part I begins by introducing the voice of the narrator, Daniel Franks. It opens with Daniel giving us a sense of who he is, as a relatively distant, and yet involved, narrator: “I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down, and see it bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to write about anything else.”


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An Object of Beauty is divided in three sections. Part I begins by introducing the voice of the narrator, Daniel Franks. It opens with Daniel giving us a sense of who he is, as a relatively distant, and yet involved, narrator: “I am tired, so very tired of thinking about Lacey Yeager, yet I worry that unless I write her story down, and see it bound and tidy on my bookshelf, I will be unable to write about anything else.”

The occasion of this writing – trying to get down the story of Lacey once and for all – returns throughout the novel, as the narrator tries to come to terms with his complicated feelings for Lacey. This first book sets up their rocky relationship, and it also shows us the beginnings of Lacey’s career in the art world of New York in the 1990s, where she works in the basement of Sotheby’s preparing paintings for auction.

She and Daniel share some features of their careers, since they’re both involved in art, though he’s more interested in the aesthetics, whereas she gradually becomes more interested in the monetary value of that art. When the story opens, they’re both 23 years old, fresh out of college, and eager to make it in the big world. This first part of the novel shows Lacey coming of age, becoming an adult, and growing beyond the furniture and boyfriends of her past.

Part II shows a shift in Lacey’s character, and details what could be seen as her corruption. She is involved in several shady art sales, including one that involves Daniel but that we don’t hear the specifics of until later in the novel. In this section, Lacey travels to Russia with art investor Patrice Claire to make an art trade – portions of which become suspicious and nefarious. She also begins to collect in earnest, and to make profits on her investments and purchases.

In fact, she ceases to see art as simply an aesthetic enterprise, and rather as a way to pay the bills, to keep her in the money for the increasingly lavish lifestyle she wants to live. Nowhere is this clearer than her first purchase of a painting, which she immediately sells to an art gallery down the street, making an instant profit. With this transaction, she realizes that art will be a means to making it in the expensive social world of New York, funding her meteoric rise to power and relative wealth.

Part III details the unraveling of Lacey’s schemes. She has been fired from Sotheby’s and takes a position at the gallery of the wealthy Barton Talley, who uses her as much for her looks as for her knowledge of art. The mysterious transaction involving Daniel gets explained, when Lacey comes under investigation by the FBI – an investigation that goes nowhere but still casts a cloud upon her character – for an auction years before of a Maxfield Parrish painting called Daybreak.

We learn, through the narrator, that she stole this painting from her grandmother, put it up for auction, and pocketed the proceeds. We also learn about other borderline illegal activities in which she’s been involved, and which eventually lead her to leave Talley’s gallery, move to Atlanta, and work for the estate of Elton John. Daniel ends by leaving things fairly open, in terms of his relationship with Lacey. He still clearly has feelings for her and is hoping to get together with her someday, but he has also seen the worst of her, and, in fact, the worst of himself and of the age in which they live.

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