Maybe it’s because I read a ton of young adult fiction, but I have this (probably erroneous) perception that much of the stuff I read is by people nearish my own age. Even if they’re not, these authors are writing with a certain mindset of youthfulness. Steve Martin’s prose feels like the opposite of that. Not that he reads as aged, but rather like the product of an era that no longer exists. Words pop into my head, like “gamine” and “effete,” that no one uses any more. His prose feels lush and deliberate, taking its time telling the story.
Daniel is an art writer and the narrator, telling of his college friend Lacey Yeager. He and Lacey move to New York after graduation, and both start working in the art world. Lacey begins at Sotheby’s, learning the difference between a good painting and a bad painting, between what will sell and what won’t. Her ambitious maneuvering through New York’s art scene is aided by her beauty, unfailing eye for men and art, and a willingness to make the bold (if not always ethical or legal) choice.
Daniel’s actual interactions with Lacey are small, dinner or drinks, a meeting at a gallery. He comes at the art world from the aesthetic rather than monetary direction, but clearly appreciates Lacey’s rise and her skills in getting what she wants. The story begins in the 80s and goes through the mid 00s, taking Lacey, Daniel and the art world through 9/11. There are also quite a few small reproductions of pieces mentioned in the text and I felt like I got a little art education just by reading the book. While Lacey isn’t a very nice, and we don’t really know enough about Daniel to sympathize with him, her machinations and his orbit around her are a quick, high-browish yet fun read.