Volume 94, Issue 55
Wednesday, December 6, 2000
|ARTS AND ENTERTAINMENT
Shopgirl a great read
Steve Martin is the funniest man on the planet.
Having said that, it must be noted that Shopgirl, Martin's first foray into fiction, is not particularly funny. Although there are some humorous moments throughout the novella, it is generally much more serious in tone than one might have expected from Martin, the original wild and crazy man.
Set in Los Angeles, Shopgirl revolves around the life of Mirabelle, who works at a department store selling gloves. Mirabelle is a shy, naive and badly out-of-touch woman who lives every day of her sad life in a state of numbness. Her life goes through some dramatic changes when she meets an older man, Ray Porter, who finds her to be irresistible and attempts to woo her. This man is in as sad shape as Mirabelle, which essentially dooms their romance before it begins. The crux of the book is the chronicle of the relationship between these two wounded individuals.
Martin has been a regular contributor to several different magazines for a long time, and his brilliant essays certainly would lead one to expect that Shopgirl would be similarly excellent, but he has clearly outdone himself here. The book is beautifully written, full of passages so affecting they force the reader to pause and reflect on the words they've just read. Martin's command of the English language is on full display here; his prose is never anything less than masterful.
The one complaint that holds any water though, is Shopgirl's length. At a scant 130 pages, it is simply too brief. Martin draws you into the story with an expertise so developed, that upon completing the work the reader is left wanting more. Much more.
A modern day Breakfast At Tiffany's, Shopgirl is a wonderful book that will, if there is any justice in the world, be remembered as a classic in years to come. Powerful, dazzling and affecting, Shopgirl is a must-read.
Aaron St. John
Copyright © The Gazette 2000