Steve Martin is known as a top-notch comedic actor. He worked on Saturday Night Live, starred in Father of the Bride, and penned the novella Shopgirl. Martin can act. He can also write -- expertly.
Shopgirl centers on the romantic relationships of one Mirabelle Buttersfield. Mirabelle is reserved and refined. She spends her hours standing behind the glove counter at Neiman's in Los Angeles, creating works of art, and parading about with a Mr. Ray Porter, a wealthy older gentleman who romances her on accident. But Shopgirl is far from a romance. It's a fictional (possibly autobiographical) story about people and their maturation.
Martin's characters are likeable, lovable in fact. Mirabelle is alluring and sexy, even though the reader never sees her. Ray Porter is seductive and exciting. And then there's Jeremy, Mirabelle's first tryst of the novella. He's naive and charming, albeit idiotic at times. But they all have their flaws. Mirabelle is unambitious and stiff. Ray is heartless. But these flaws make Martin's characters more human and extremely relatable. They are not flat or perfect (as a majority of characters from recent decades are).
But it's not just the cast that draws the reader in. It's also the writing. Martin is witty, creating clever turns of phrase and machinations. His descriptions are works of art, painting beautiful scenes in the mind. It's a delightful romp that lasts only 130 pages. Perfect for a couple-hour-long flight, train ride or car ride.
And during those 130 pages, Martin's characters develop better than in much longer, more verbose novels. The growths are not forced or contrived. They feel real and right. They make sense. Readers can easily infer the characters' developing because it is so natural.
Comical yet touching, joyous yet heartbreaking, Martin's Shopgirl is a wonderful, quick read.
This book goes on the shelf.