Personal Introduction

by Vivian Wagner

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

I love Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty for the same reasons I love the novels of Edith Wharton. It’s about a doomed heroine who seeks to make her fortune and seems to have the world by the tail, even as she and society both have fatal flaws that lead to her downfall. It’s full of richly-detailed characters and descriptions of the turn-of-the-twenty-first-century art world, and it is a true portrait of the modern age.


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I love Steve Martin’s An Object of Beauty for the same reasons I love the novels of Edith Wharton. It’s about a doomed heroine who seeks to make her fortune and seems to have the world by the tail, even as she and society both have fatal flaws that lead to her downfall. It’s full of richly-detailed characters and descriptions of the turn-of-the-twenty-first-century art world, and it is a true portrait of the modern age.

An Object of Beauty also includes a number of full-color reproductions of paintings, which are central to the book’s story-telling and plot. The reproductions – including James Tissot’s La Mondaine, Ed Ruscha’s Los Angeles County Museum on Fire, Joseph Beuys’ Felt Suit, and many others – are almost as much fun to look at as the novel is to read, and they flesh out the storytelling in surprising ways. I found myself going back and forth between reading the novel and looking at the images of art, and this back-and-forth motion between text and image is one of the novel’s primary delights.

This is a novel for people who love novels and art. It’s a pleasure to read, and it leaves you wanting more of this story. When I first read it, I wanted to go back and read all of Edith Wharton’s repertoire again, and I know it will do the same for other readers. Anyone who enjoys nineteenth-century novels of manners will enjoy this novel, and it’s all the more enjoyable because it updates those story lines and brings them to life in the modern era.

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