You know that moment when you realize you should've paid more attention to your parent's and grandparents' taste in music, film, and books? Maybe I'll never like the same kind of music they do, but there are a few little things popping up here and there that make me think back to my younger self and realize maybe they knew what they were talking about. One of those things I should've paid more attention to is Steve Martin.
My mom and dad used to watch The Jerk by Steve Martin on a regular basis to the point they practically memorized it. I cannot tell you how many times one of them would interrupt a unrelated conversation by saying, "I was born a poor black child." Now, without having developed a mature sense of humor, I always thought the movie was dumb. That's right. Dumb. I just didn't get it. I didn't get the dry witticisms; I didn't really get Steve Martin.
Fast forward 7-10 years and here I am as a 26 year old strolling through Barnes and Nobel looking for something to read. I should probably spend more time strolling through my bookshelves at home for something to read, as our collection of books is pretty impressive (we own over 500 books--and just donated around 400 to a local used book store about a year ago), but I digress. Anyway, so I see a special table set aside for Steve Martin publications because he had just published his book of Tweets (which is a hilarious concept unto itself, much like Sterling's Gold from the Mad Men producers). Never knowing much about Steve Martin other than he-was-the-guy-my-parents-liked, I flipped through some of the books and did my usual, Should I Read This? process.
I ended up picking up Shopgirl, because honestly, I knew it had been made into a movie that I had never seen and also because it was the shortest of all his books. I'm never one to grab "the shortest" on the shelf, but I know that it takes much skill for a writer to hone their craft into so few pages. I figure, if Steve Martin considers himself to be a writer, I'll be able to figure out if he's as skilled as he thinks since a writer has to be pretty poignant when working with only 130 pages.
It took me a few days to finish the book because I would read a few pages before bed here and there. Finally, my first night of Spring Break allowed me a few hours to dig into it. I woke up early yesterday morning to finish the read, because I was eager to see how Mr. Martin was going to tie together Mirabelle's emotional and relational "strings."
Here's the deal with Shopgirl. We've all been Mirabelle. We've all had the relationships that make you feel icky inside even though you can't seem to leave. We've also had the relationships where you so desperately want everything to work out, but it just won't or can't. We've all had lackluster phases in our lives that we feel will never end. She's real, not a stereotype. I appreciate that.
The other thing I appreciate is the contrast between male and female perspectives that is delicately illustrated throughout the text. Ray and Jeremy's mentality is just as Cory describes the "male brain" to me whenever we're discussion our respective points-of-view with one another. Nothing in Mr. Martin's book shocked me other the very realness of it all. In the end, I'd much rather enjoy a work of fiction that doesn't feel so fictional, than a piece that does.
Shopgirl is an easy read. It's nice. It's like hanging out with your college girlfriends after a few years apart; you catch right back up and you completely understand each other. Now, don't get me wrong, Mr. Martin is no lackadaisical writer. This isn't smut and it's not contrived. I probably didn't learn any new vocabulary words or get a different view of the world, but I enjoyed my time nestled inside those 130 pages.
So would I recommend this book? Let me put it to you this way, I've already picked up his most recent fiction publication, An Object of Beauty to add to my to-read pile.
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