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Steve Martin Finds His Muse In 'An Object Of Beauty'

Steve Martin is best known for his comedy, but he's also a writer, a Grammy-winning bluegrass artist -- and a serious art collector. In his new novel, An Object of Beauty, Martin channels an ambitious woman navigating her way up -- and out of -- the New York City art world.

Lacey Yeager, the art dealer anti-heroine of Martin's book, will do just about anything to get ahead in her field. Martin hasn't met her, exactly, but tells NPR's Tony Cox that he's met plenty of people like her.

Martin divides the world into two categories -- the financial and artistic -- with "different types of people" populating each domain. "Generally," Martin explains, "the artistic side of the world has people with more flamboyant personalities, or more uncategorizable personalities, and Lacey is certainly one of those people."

Martin says that readers who hail from the financial world may not sympathize with a character as "extravagant" as Yeager -- but they might identify with the narrator of An Object Of Beauty. Yeager's friend Daniel Chester French Franks simply "observes her," Martin says. "All you can do with these type of people is observe them and wonder how they tick, what makes them work, because they really cannot be explained."

Of course, Martin is himself a dynamic personality, so what makes him tick? Show business, he says. As a young man, he saw not going into show business as the riskier choice.

"When I was in college," Martin recalls, "I was debating to try my hand at show business, or to become a professor. I just thought of the risk of not going into show business and always wondering if I would've had a chance. Because that's where my real heart was."

And so far, Martin hasn't regretted his decisions to focus on writing or acting or playing the banjo. "I never thought about success. I always thought about doing the job at hand," he says. "My goal was getting through the show that night."

He didn't fear the scorn of doubters, Martin says, because "nobody cared -- there wasn't enough to doubt. To have a doubter implied that you had somebody who cared."

And despite his success, he says he'll never go back to stand-up comedy. "In my banjo show with the Steep Canyon Rangers, I do do comedy during that show," he says. "It'd be absurd just to stand there mute and play 25 banjo songs." Martin enjoys that, but "it's always broken up by music."

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