Narration that fits like a glove – “Shopgirl” by Steve Martin

Steve Martin can really do no wrong.  (Yes, I’m forgiving “Bringing Down the House.”)  He’s an amazing comedian, musician, actor – and yep, writer too.

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.


About JamieP

Books. Adventures. Chicago. Married. Mommy. Cat.

Posted on January 19, 2011, in Uncategorized and tagged . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. I love Shopgirl. It’s sexy and beautiful.

  2. I love, love love, the :
    “Some nights, alone, he thinks of her, and some nights, alone, she thinks of him. Some nights these thoughts, separated by miles and time zones, occur at the same objective moment, and they are connected without ever knowing it. ”
    It always makes me a little misty.

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