Book Report: Shopgirl by Steve Martin (2000)

I bought this book for like a buck at the Jewish Community Center book fair this year, fully conscious that I risked my life to help fund the organization and to add to my library. Sad, I know, but in this modern world, I did note the dangers of being near a Jewish center. If I hadn’t gone, the terrorists would have won. Also, I would not have gotten a good deal on some books I have been meaning to buy.

This book, though, doesn’t fall into the class of books I’ve been meaning to buy, but I bought it never the less. I’ve been intrigued by Steve Martin’s writing forays, in a “if they fall into my lap” sort of way, for some time. I liked Bowfinger, which Martin wrote. I’ve heard good things about L.A. Story, which Martin also wrote. I dragged my poor wife to see a local community theatre production of Picasso at the Lapin Agile (Crikey, soon to be a major motion picture). I’d heard about Martin’s work for The New Yorker. So I wanted to read something on my own. Okay, I probably had read somewhere about the movie version of this film, too. So I bought it. I spent like a buck, okay?

This novella (130 pages) describes a glove department salesperson and her involvement with an older, rich computer guy and how they define intimacy and how it helps them both along in the long run. To make a short book shorter, there you go.

The story is presented entirely in the present tense but for some future tense foreshadowing. The tense choice isn’t particularly jarring, however, to those of us used to past tense whether in third person or first person. I thought the first portion of the book interesting, as the characters develop in their (purposefully limited) fashion. However, when the relationship progressed, it got a little wearing (but not for long–this ain’t Tolstoy). Finally, the end and the resolution seems a bit forced and chopped. Perhaps this would have made a better short story with less, a better novel with more. Or maybe it’s a good prose screenplay–I’ll have to catch the film version sometime later to compare (probably after Sharky’s Machine).

Still, it’s not a bad work if you can get it cheap. If you cannot and want to see what this wild and crazy guy writes like, click the helpful link below. You, gentle reader, have the ability to put MfBJN over the check-cutting threshold from the Amazon Associates program sometime before never.

Books mentioned in this review:

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