For the second novel that has ever been reviewed on this blog, I have decided to go with an odd book from an odd author. It doesn’t really need to be said that Steve Martin is a very talented man but a lot of people don’t know how talented. A brilliant actor, Martin has also written a number of screenplays. He is a mind-blowing banjo player and, hence this blog post, he is also an accomplished author. The novel I read is Martin’s most recent novel, Object of Beauty. Though it wasn’t written in my favorite style, the novel was well written, focused mainly on an eccentric non-artist trying to make her way in the art world.
The novel is written from the point of view of a young man who writes articles for art magazene’s named Daniel. Though he is the narrator, the book barely focuses on Daniel. A few of the 68 chapters are about Robert but most of them focus on the novel’s main character, Lacey Yeager. A beautiful young woman who can use her charm to get the best of any situation, the novel looks at Lacey’s rise through the art world. She starts in a back room at an art gallery, working her way up to owning her own gallery and leaving a trail of broken hearts in her wake. The novel chronicals not only the events of Lacey’s rise to success but also the way she gained knowledge about art. Investing, collecting, taking risks and even breaking the law, Lacey plays her way through the New York Art world, taking everything she can from it before it is done with her.
There are a number of characters in the novel but none get nearly as much attention as Lacey. Other gallery owners and art collectors make appearances, most starting as Lacey’s superieors and ending up as her friends or partners. The most noteable is Barton Fink, a man who seems to have unwavering faith in Lacy. Other characters include Lacey’s lovers which could be artists, buyers, sellers, police officers and even the novel’s narrator. One of Lacey’s lovers becomes prominent enough in the novel to be considered a main character. Patrice Claire is a character that lives in Europe and falls madly in love with Lacey almost immediately. A wealthy man, Patrice travels from Europe often simply to see Lacy though it is sometimes under the guise of other business. Desperately trying to foster a close, meaningful relationship with Lacey, she does not get as entangled in the relationship as Patrice hopes. Oddly enough for a book about art there are not many artist characters. The only real artist character that makes much of an impact on the story is a man named Pilot Mouse, though that isn’t how we are first introduced to him.
This novel is written in a very interesting manner, not following the classic structure of building to a final climax. The novel seemed to follow more of a wave pattern, introducing elements that caused confilcit but resolving those elements long before the novel’s end. One would expect the novel to be humerous considering it comes from the mind of Steve Martin but that isn’t exactly the case. There are some amusing moments in the novel but they were subtle and not exactly laugh out loud. The writing style contained a sense of wit but a wit that boasted Martin’s intelligence as opposed to his humor. Martin either has a great knowledge of the art world or did a lot of research before writing this novel. Tha pages are filled with art theories, information on artists and analyses of different paintings. Often when a painting was mentioned, it appeared in the novel, a picture of it taking up half or three quarters of the following page. This novel offered a unique look at the art world, an aspect of it that isn’t always portrayed in films or novels.
My favorite aspect of this novel was the fact that I feel like I learned something from it. The book features a number of intellectual passages about not only art but also about the buying and selling of art. Overall, I thought the book was very well written, it just wasn’t written in a format that I enoy. I appreciate the skill that went into writing the novel, I just found it to be a little dry and lacking overall conflict. The story was character driven, I just wanted a little more. I give Object of Beauty a 5.5 out of 10. It’s an interesting novel that anybody with any interst in the art world should enjoy.
I’ve talked a number of different times in a number of different posts about how expectations can affect a person’s opinion of a film. Expectations can make or break a film, making them a potentially dangerous thing to have. I went into the new animated film Wreck-It-Ralph with high expectations; in fact I don’t remember the last time I was so excited for an animated film. Though it wasn’t exactly what I expected it to be, Wreck-It-Ralph met all my expectations and then some.
Wreck-It-Ralph (John C. Reilly) is the villain not of just the film but of a fictional arcade video game called Fix-It-Felix Jr. Ralph’s job in life while the arcade is open is to destroy a building that Felix (John McBrayer) must then fix. Once the player beats the game, Ralph is hurled from the building into the mud. Ralph would be fine with that life if things were different once the arcade closed. Once closed, the characters from each game are free to do as they pleased in the video game world. Each arcade game has its own world and all the games are connected by Game Central Station but even after the game is done, Ralph is still treated like a villain. Forced to live in a dump alone, Ralph desperately wants the rest of the characters in his game to realize that being a bad guy doesn’t necessarily make him a bad guy. Determined to prove his worth, Ralph beings game jumping, something a character shouldn’t do, to try and earn himself a medal. The problem with game jumping is that if you die in a game that isn’t your own you don’t regenerate; you’re dead for good.
Ralph visits two different games while game jumping, the first being a space set, alien first person shooter called Hero’s Duty (and the film does not overlook the puns that can be made with duty). Under the command of Sergeant Calhoun (Jane Lynch), Ralph is to help the First Person Shooter make it to the top of a tower without letting the cybugs (vicious alien robot bugs) destroy them. After failing miserably, Ralph decides to find his own way to the top to retrieve his own Hero’s medal. Ralph is successful in retrieving the medal but also inadvertently launches himself and a cybug into another game. Sergeant Calhoun follows Ralph, determined to kill the rogue cybug. If left unchecked, the cybug will multiply, eventually destroy the other video game worlds. Calhoun is accompanied by Felix, who is searching for Ralph. Without Ralph to be the villain, the arcade owner Mr. Litwak (Ed O’Neil) assumes the game is out of order and is prepares to unplug it.
The second video game world that Ralph inadvertently visits is the racing world of Sugar Rush. In an environment made entirely out of candy, Sugar Rush is a world similar to Mario Kart where racing reigns supreme. Run by King Candy (Alan Tudyk) each night racers race to become one of the eight avatars the children in the arcade can chose to race as the next day. Ralph meets a young racer named Vanellope Van Schweetz (Sarah Silverman) who dreams of racing but is not allowed to because she has been labeled a glitch. After she takes Ralph’s medal, the two work together to try and help her win her first race. As the two work together and grow closer as friends, Ralph becomes suspicious of King Candy and how Venelope actually became a glitch in the first place. The film continues to mix different game genres as Venellope, Ralph, Felix and Calhoun come together to save the land of Sugar Rush, defeat the cybugs, defeat a surprise enemy and save Venelope’s very existence.
Wreck-It-Ralph was one of the more unique and clever films I have seen in theaters in a while. I am a twenty-three year old video game nerd and the film appealed to me. I also believe that it could easily appeal to young children, old children and even adults who may not have much video game knowledge. With well thought out, lovable characters and rich, lush environments, Wreck-It-Ralph has all the elements of a great animated film. Beyond that however are some well placed, well integrated video game references that prove how clever the creators really are. The references were subtle, like the way the characters moved like video game characters or in a montage where we saw the arcade age 30 years, many of the video games that passed through were classic games. Even in the opening scene, when Wreck-It-Ralph is at a support group for bad guys, each other member of the support group was from a famous video game.
The main complaint I heard about this movie was that though the ideas in it were unique, the story itself wasn’t. The film starts with conflict, then the main character meets a friend and they grow close before something bad happens to make them fight (Ralph and Vanellope). The fight escalates to make the audience sad, then the main character finds his friend and apologizes so they can go on to defeat the villain. It is a common outline for animated movies but this film took the common outline and elevated it to the next level. I found every aspect of this film to be thoroughly unique from beginning to end and give it an 8 out of 10. It is a great animated film that will please gamers and non-gamers alike.