Narration that fits like a glove – “Shopgirl” by Steve Martin
In his 2000 novella, “Shopgirl,” depressed Neiman Marcus shopgirl Mirabelle spends her days leaning on the counter where she sells designer gloves. When Mirabelle meets a wealthy older man named Ray, who took a chance on asking her out, a romance begins. It’s not an overly happy romance, and not one destined for the ages, but it’s a romance nonetheless.
If it’s not the most exciting plot ever written, it’s enhanced greatly by Martin’s choice to play storyteller. Rather than clutter the pages with ton of clever dialogue – which I’ve no doubt he’s capable of – a narrator tells the story to us, explaining details that would never have otherwise come to the surface. The inner-workings of complicated people are not likely to naturally come up in a brunch conversation. Especially in the case of Mirabelle, who is broke and suffers from depression, a delicate hand is needed to keep her likable and from becoming a burdensome heroine. It’s a style of storytelling that seems somehow incredibly fresh in a time when witty banter is all the rage and often clouds and clutters books. (It also sheds a lot of light on the character of Lisa, one of Mirabelle’s co-workers and “friends” who would probably appear like a vision of the perfect woman if you didn’t know all the crazy crap about her that our reliable and painfully honest narrator explains.)
“Shopgirl” is a quick read – only about 130 pages – and a truly interesting one. It’s a book that was on my “I should probably read this at some point” list, and I’m really glad I finally did.