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As one who honors the creative and ranks it right up there with courage and character, I have to say Steve Martin is at the head of the class. To get there he has traveled what most would consider a reverse route, from the ridiculous to the sublime. I saw him first in the Seventies when he was still working 100 person rooms. I honestly think that he extended my first marriage several years, simply by his being, as my then wife put it, the first man "I've seen who's crazier than you." (I was honored then and am humbled now.) From the arrow through his head to the "I've got happy feet" routine, he could easily be said to have honed the ridiculous its keenest edge. Now comes "Shopgirl", a sublime novella that reads like a poem, written in the present tense, with pluperfect timing and a natural rhythm that understands both the prism of the mind and the darkness that invades its gloomiest depths. Without naming names and explicating plot twists, (It is a novella, of course, and even a little explicating goes a long way towards replicating, and then what's the use of buying the book.) there are few people of insight who will not identify some with one or more the characters, to the point even of wondering how Martin could have possibly known that about them. Buy this book, but do yourself a favor. Don't speed through it. Savor it. Read each word and feel each meaning, for this work is as much about writing as it is about disaster and triumph. It must have been an exquisite pain the Martin endured to write something this sublime and this revealing. Most great comics are also great tragedians, Charlie Chaplin, Jackie Gleason, Red Skelton, for example. Martin's depth is telling. What hath he wrought (or is it writ)? He may think I'm way off base, but imagine Olive Oyl meets Sylvia Plath and the Frog/Prince. You can't? Then buy this book. I'd be surprised if you didn't think it fit like a glove.
Written by funnyman Steve Martin, I really enjoyed this book. After first watching the DVD (which was slow to start but then pulls the viewer in), I felt compelled to buy the book and was not disappointed. Although the book is short at 130 pages, the story itself (a bittersweet love story) was deeply moving, intelligent and tender and although written by a comedian, the humorous moments was cleverly deadpan and sarcastic rather than wild and zany.
I really liked Mr. Martin's writing style. His writing felt razor sharp and crisp as if he put a great deal of thought into each sentence. Each paragraph felt like it flowed and gelled with the story and that no sentence was wasted. I found myself hanging on to each sentence and was never bored or lost in the story. Although I don't know this as fact, I imagined he had many people help him edit this book and that it was rewritten dozens of times until he and the publisher felt it was just right.
His development of the story and the characters was excellent. I won't go into the details surrounding the storyline as that is already summarized by critical reviews available on this site. However, I will say I felt, well, both moved by the deep introspection of the main male character Ray Porter as he stumbled along the path of self discovery trying to decipher how to love another human being and yet I felt sorry for him in his ignorance about relationships with women in spite of his wealth and success as a businessman. I felt happy for the main female character Mirabelle in her claim to independence and finding value in herself although I felt empathy and compassion for her during the pitfalls she encountered throughout the book to get there.
I HIGHLY recommend this book. The story and characters stayed with me long after finishing the book.
I could hardly get through this long short story. The dry, impersonal narrative didn't engage me at all and made me not give a hoot about the cartoonish characters or the story. There was no build-up, no moving forward. It was clinical, sterile writing. I found no humor in the story. If Martin was trying for any kind of pathos, it eluded me. There seems to be the makings of a beginning of a novel here, one that was aborted and published without being finished. An outline or start of a character study for a better novel, maybe. But in and of itself, a weak and uninteresting try. In my humble opinion, this book would not have received any attention if it weren't written by a well-liked celebrity.
Yeah, pretty much hated it. Too bad, because I really liked The Pleasure of My Company. Shopgirl felt really disjointed, with too many loose ends, weird rabbit trails, and lots of gratuitous sex and language. Plus it was just boring to me, and I started skimming pages. I never really cared about Mirabelle like I cared about Daniel Cambridge (the protagonist in The Pleasure of My Company). Daniel had issues, but he was likable. Mirabelle was just...stupid. Actually, most of the characters seemed stupid - and by that I mean, lacking in common sense. Hard to root for them when they're being idiots. Maybe that was Martin's point - these stupid, shallow people trying (or in some cases, not trying) to get a grip on their souls, but...it felt very flat, and in the end I just didn't care if they grew up or not. Martin did a lot of telling instead of showing, and a great deal of explaining the inner workings of his characters, and it kind of came off as someone who really wanted to be a psychiatrist deciding to write a book because "I'm an author" would sound more sexy at dinner parties.
Without histrionics but with a clear reflection of emotion, Steve Martin is the perfect reader for his novella, Shopgirl. While the tale is not new, the telling, by both Steve Martin's pen and voice, is both relaxing and compelling at the same time. As you follow the love story between Mirabella and her wealthy amour, even though the end of the affair is projected in the beginning, you keep hoping that the author, reaching back to his comic self, is going to take you by surprise with a twist in the end. Somehow, he does. Cassette version needs frequent rewinding to hear pithy but sweet observations, again and again.
There are approximately one and a half jokes in this book. One comes at the end, in the "Acknowledgements," and the other is funny only if you're familiar with Immanuel Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. That said, Shopgirl is a wonderful book. Steve Martin's ability to create compelling characters is what has driven the best of his movies (LA Story, Roxanne) and his plays (Picasso at the Lapin Agile). Shopgirl is the saga of Mirabelle, a slightly eccentric young woman living in LA and working in Neimann Marcus's glove department. She searches for life and love in LA -- amidst a love square (not triangle) and eventually finds it. Sort of. Unfortunately, the book is akin to LA Story in locale, theme, and even the characters. And while Shopgirl -- being a novella, with access to characters' thoughts and feelings -- offers greater character depth, it lacks the poignancy and brilliance of LA Story. It's not fair to compare Martin's first serious work with what is his masterpiece, but c'est la vie. The book is partly a story of self-discovery and self-realization -- for a variety of characters -- but also partly a depiction of contemporary society in LA. It's worth reading for the insights Martin brings to his characters and life in general, but the plot is not as memorable as LA Story's. Again, it's a romantic postcard to the city Steve Martin loves to hate. It's a quick read -- 127 small pages -- and enjoyable.