Original Color

Hugh Kennedy, Author
Hugh Kennedy, Author Nan A. Talese $21.95 (0p) ISBN 978-0-385-47736-9
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The extravagant, soulless late 1980s art scene is the setting for Kennedy's glib and cynical second novel (after Everything Looks Impressive). Fresh out of Princeton, Fred Layton, the 22-year-old narrator, lands a job with Nelson Albright, a megalomaniac dealer of rare prints and maps who will stop at nothing in his pursuit of the almighty dollar. Albright introduces his eager young protege to the absurdly opulent world of sterling silver tape measures and converted duck decoy tissue holders and teaches him that an art dealer's greatest assets are an unshakable sangfroid, a killer instinct and the ability to lie gracefully and convincingly under pressure. Layton is a quick study; before long he's calling himself the ""Liberace of decorative arts rhetoric"" and worrying that he's becoming ""more Nelson than Nelson."" Told in 55 lightning-fast chapters, this cheerful send-up of the ridiculous consumption that fueled the era's art boom moves along briskly, jump-cutting from scenes with ignorant nouveau-riche clients to broadly comic descriptions of life at Albright's wildly lavish robber-baron mansion. The title comes from a term used to describe pigment applied at the time of printing (an indication of a print's value). By the novel's end, Layton has learned how to apply this test for authenticity to his own existence; there's more to life, he learns, than sucking up to demanding collectors and massaging their check-writing muscle. (Oct.)
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