Shopgirl by Steve Martin


Audiobook.  While reading much of this book, I was conscious of its cleverness, and some of the bits made me think of Tina Fey.  I think that means I haven't seen Steve Martin do a comic turn in a long time.  The characters are well-described, but for much of the time, not too real.  For example, Mirabelle, the shopgirl, in contrast to the completely unreflective Jeremy, "spins a cocoon around an idea until it is immobilized."   This is fine until he goes a step too far when he describes Mirabelle driving home:

Mirabelle wears her driving glasses as she grips the wheel with both hands.  She drives in the same posture as she walks, overly erect.  The glasses give her a librarian quality before libraries were on cd-rom.  And the '89 Toyota truck she drives indicates the librarian salary too. 

Just what is "librarian quality" and how did it change when libraries went to cd-roms?  And by 2000 when this was published, weren't libraries online?   Despite a few cheap tricks like this one, the characters are sympathetically drawn and the plot develops nicely, if a bit improbably.  In fact by the end, I was amazed at the fondness the author shows for each of the main characters and what a lovely resolution he gives us. 

Steve Martin's second book, An Object of Beauty (reviewed here), shows much more complex and pleasing writing. 

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