One of our country's most acclaimed and beloved entertainers, Steve Martin has written a novella that is unexpectedly perceptive about relationships and life. Martin is profoundly wise when it comes to the inner workings of the human heart.
Mirabelle is the "shopgirl" of the title, a young woman, beautiful in a wallflowerish kind of way, who works behind the glove counter at Neiman Marcus "selling things that nobody buys anymore . . ."
Slightly lost, slightly off-kilter, very shy, Mirabelle charms because of all that she is not: not glamorous, not aggressive, not self-aggrandizing. Still there is something about her that is irresistible.
Mirabelle captures the attention of Ray Porter, a wealthy businessman almost twice her age. As they tentatively embark on a relationship, they both struggle to decipher the language of love--with consequences that are both comic and heartbreaking. Filled with the kind of witty, discerning observations that have brought Steve Martin critical success, Shopgirl is a work of disarming tenderness.
Movie star Martin shone in the comic essays of last year's Pure Drivel--but can he write serious fiction? His debut novella gives fans a chance to find out. Shy, depressed, young, lonely and usually broke, Vermont-bred Mirabelle Butterfield sells gloves at the Beverly Hills Neiman Marcus (nobody ever buys); at night, she watches TV with her two cats. Martin's slight plot follows Mirabelle's search for love--or at least romance and companionship--with middle-aged Ray Porter, a womanizing Seattle millionaire who may, or may not, have hidden redeeming qualities. Also in and out of Mirabelle's life are a handful of supporting characters, all of them lonely and alienated, too. There's her father, a dysfunctional Vietnam vet; the laconic, unambitious Jeremy; and Mirabelle's promiscuous, body-obsessed co-worker Lisa. Detractors may call Martin's plot predictable, his characters stereotypes. Admirers may answer that--as in Douglas Coupland--these aren't stereotypes but modern archetypes, whose lives must be streamlined if they are to represent ours. Except for its love-hate relations with L.A., little about this book sounds much like Martin; its anxious, sometimes flat prose style can be affecting or disorienting, and belongs somewhere between Coupland and literary chroniclers of depression like Lydia Davis. Martin's first novel is finally neither a triumph nor a disaster: it's yet another of this intelligent performer's attempts to expand his range, and those who will buy it for the name on the cover could do a lot worse.
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