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Steve Martin Stirs Up Praise and Prattle with New Book

41voRRKY31L._SL160_A man of many talents and interests, Steve Martin is best known for his comedic work on film and television. But the funny man has a cerebral side, too, and is also a Grammy-winning bluegrass banjo musician and author of several books, plays and memoirs. His latest novel, An Object of Beauty (Grand Central Publishing, 304pgs) debuted last week to much critical praise. The story follows Lacey Yeager, an ambitious young art dealer, through her rise in the art world and is narrated by an art critic friend who observes her climb to the top. We here at In the Stax try to avoid works by celebrity authors in general, since the writing and plot lines are usually mediocre at best. But experience with Martin’s past work has proved that he is a wry and insightful writer. Hopefully An Object of Beauty continues in that vein.

Martin cites the experience gained over the decades of acting, writing and performing as help in crafting this new book. “If I had tried to write it 20 years ago, I would have suffered. I suffered a long time to get to where I am, to be able to write it, sort of knowingly, and have the confidence to write it,” he states in an interview with Reuters. His first hand knowledge of the art scene and experience as an art collector gives him a unique perspective on the subject. In 2006, the comedian sold an Edward Hopper painting through Sotheby’s for a whopping $26.8 million, though he no longer actively purchases art. “Every collector eventually gets priced out as inflation takes hold,” he explains. “A really great painting today costs over $20 million.”

It is this expansive knowledge of art that caused some negative PR prattle in the media earlier this week, when Martin sat down for an interview at the 92nd Street Y in New York. The conversation between Martin and The New York Times Magazine columnist Deborah Solomon was deemed boring by some of the viewers watching the event on CCTV because the discussion focused mainly on the art world. According to an article in The New York Times, a flurry of negative viewer e-mails prompted a Y representative to interrupt the interview with a note directing Solomon to focus more on the comedian’s career and less on art. The next day the Y’s executive director, Sol Adler, sent out an apologetic e-mail to attendees offering a refund.

Both Martin and Solomon were unpleasantly surprised by the Y’s negative reaction to their interview and their offer of a refund. Martin found the Y’s actions “discourteous” and took to his Twitter page to voice his frustrations. “So the 92nd St. Y has determined that the course of its interviews should be dictated in real time by its audience’s emails. Artists beware,” he tweeted.

Read an excerpt of An Object of Beauty

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