There’s one kind of person that I like and admire – someone who can do multiple things. Sure, you can be really good at this one thing you do, and that deserves respect; but if you are good at a lot of things, you have an instant fan in me. Actor, comedian, musician, writer Steve Martin is, by that rule, really easy to like. While I was familiar with his first three abilities, I wasn’t quite aware that Martin wrote fiction as well. The author’s name and the brevity of the book piqued my interest.
Shopgirl is about Mirabelle, a glove saleswoman at Neiman Marcus. Like her quaint occupation, Mirabelle is an oddity in the artificial, glamorous, and superficial world of Los Angeles. Mirabelle is psychologically fragile and deeply lonely. She lives away from her family in a dead end job, is unable to make friends, and is not good at playing the dating game. In the midst of all this, Mirabelle is dependent on mood elevating drugs that help her stay away from a suicidal depression.
As likely as it may be in a plastic-ky, sterile universe like this, Mirabelle finds herself as the object of affection of two completely disparate men. Ray Porter, a millionnaire twice her age and Jeremy, a deadbeat guy her age who “stencils logos on amplifiers for a living.” What is similar about both these men is that they are both more self-absorbed than interested in properly pursuing Mirabelle. Will Mirabelle find a fairy-tale ending to her story? Will she fall in love with a man who loves her equally? Martin spins a short yarn with a very unlikely protagonist at its center.
Martin’s language is poignantly beautiful. While the story itself is nothing special or different, his characters are unique and easy to empathize with. The beauty of Martin’s novella lies in his very pointed view of the world. His metaphors and analogies are certainly male and modern, which makes his writing crisp and refreshing. For a man whose main profession is to recite lines written by someone else, Martin does quite well to pour his imagination onto the paper. I’d recommend you spend a day (or a few hours, if you are a fast reader) and read Shopgirl.