Shopgirl by Steve Martin

Shopgirl by Steve MartinSpring is here again. What a relief. It sometimes seems like this will be the year of eternal winter. Nope. It is here again and all that new energy brings thoughts of romance to some, hay fever to others. Here is a little love story by Steve Martin who is a lovely writer. A novella is the perfect book for your purse or man bag if you still read paper and this one is not short on endearing, imperfect characters and a concise storyline with the elegant complexity that you would expect from Martin.

As the story opens, Mirabelle is a young, somewhat idealistic clerk at Macy’s who meets an older, more experienced, maybe jaded man, Ray Porter, who is buying a pair of fine gloves for his current lover. With an awkward glimpse of her dating life we also meet a young man, Jeremy, who haphazardly inhabits her bedroom one evening before he leaves the picture for a while on a trip out west. While on his journey, Ray Porter woos Mirabelle with the adult and sophisticated rewards of having fought his way to middle age gathering what is valued and stylishly presented in L.A.

As Mirabelle waits for Ray to pick her up for their second date, after he has spent as much as one month of her rent on their first dinner, she looks around her apartment.  It hasn’t changed much since she graduated from college and got her first job.  She contemplates how things might go when he arrives: “Mirabelle doesn’t have a real sofa, only a low-lying futon cradled in a wood brace, which means that anyone attempting to sit on it is immediately jackknifed at floor level. If a visitor allows an arm to fall to one side, it will land on the gritty hardwood. If he sits with a drink, it has to be put on the floor at cat level. She reminds herself not to ask Ray to sit down.”

Martin’s shrewd observations give these characters enough of the dark shadings of human nature to make them real and interesting. If I told you that it was a terrific movie too, would you promise to read it first?

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