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Shopgirl: A Novella

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Overview

With more than 340,000 copies in print, Steve Martin's Shopgirl has landed on bestseller lists nationwide, including: New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Filled with the kind of witty, discerning observations that have brought Steve Martin incredible critical success, this story of modern day love and romance is a work of disarming tenderness.

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Shopgirl: A Novella

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Overview

With more than 340,000 copies in print, Steve Martin's Shopgirl has landed on bestseller lists nationwide, including: New York Times, Publishers Weekly, USA Today, Wall Street Journal, San Francisco Chronicle, Washington Post, and Los Angeles Times. Filled with the kind of witty, discerning observations that have brought Steve Martin incredible critical success, this story of modern day love and romance is a work of disarming tenderness.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
Martin is truly a Renaissance man -- New Yorker scribe, playwright, and bestselling author (his collection Pure Drivel landed on the New York Times bestseller list), and, of course, an actor acclaimed as much for his versatility as for his impeccable comic timing. Martin seems to have harnessed not merely one, but rather all of those talents for the writing of Shopgirl, the bittersweet story of one young woman's quest for the perfect man. Those fans and readers looking for laughs could be in for a surprise, however, for what Martin has created in Shopgirl, though not entirely devoid of humor, is a genuine and powerful work of literature. Highly recommended.
Entertainment Weekly
Who'd have thought Martin, known (aside from his acting) for his smart, snarky New Yorker pieces, would pen a tender love story?...Martin's shift from public follies to private frailties registers as courageous and convincing.(Entertainment Weekly, September 29, 2000)
Vogue
Steve Martin, who over the years has bravely transformed himself before the public eye from brilliant stand-up comedian to genial actor to writer... [has written] a hilarious but intense first novella...which is all about happiness and how to get there... One of the nicest things about this novel is the way it effortlessly bridges generations.(Vogue, October, 2000)
Wall Street Journal
His writing has sometimes been sweet, sometimes biting, occasionally intellectually boastful- but it has always been funny. (Wall Street Journal, October 6, 2000)
Vogue
Wryly omniscient, ruthlessly truthful, [Martin] calls to mind Austen with an up-to-date, masculine spin.
Time
The book is like one of Mirabelle's sketches: small, deft, pensive, poignant — a moving still life.
Richard Corliss
A delicate, poignant modern romance about a shy shopgirl. —Time magazine
Los Angeles Times
Shopgirl reads as smoothly and pleasurably as the novels of the late W.M. Spackman, whose An Armful of Warm Girl easily won the prize 25 years ago for best title of a novel about foolish 50 year-old men.
People
Shopgirl is an Audrey Hepburn of a book: slim, lovely, and ever so old-fashioned.
Elle
It's the signature combination of exhilaration and vulnerability that Martin offers us with extraordinary confidence.
Entertainment Weekly
A tender love story.
Talk
Shopgirl has some of Chekhov's autumn light about it: a story remembering all the really fine recent things.
New York Times
Steve Martin's most achieved work to date.
New York Post
His prose is almost Zen-like and his revelations superb.
From The Critics
True, he gave up the arrow in the head long ago, but how could a man who once acted out the Marty Robbins song "El Paso" with a bunch of chimpanzees in cowboy outfits (to supremely hilarious effect) settle for making dry Schrodinger's Cat references and drawn-out attempts at post-modern jokes about sledgehammers? Maybe it's his extended stay in Hollywood, or an overeager compulsion to be taken seriously as a writer, but Martin has suffered from a bad case of assumed audience.

His latest work, the novella Shopgirl, may be a sign that he's getting over it. Forgoing his role as the intelligentsia's wild and crazy guy this time around, Martin has opted instead to tell a simple, mostly serious story in a simple, mostly serious style. Shopgirl is about Mirabelle, a twenty-eight-year-old who works in the glove department of Neiman-Marcus in Los Angeles, "selling things that nobody buys anymore." She's lonely and depressed, but she has impeccable taste in clothes. A fiftyish divorced businessman named Ray Parker, himself a natty dresser, woos her with some initial help from his nice shoes.

Martin nimbly jumps back and forth between the heads of his characters to explore their feelings through every step of the relationship. Ultimately, though, nothing terribly profound comes of it. The reactions of each are so cookie-cutter male/female they seem straight out of the kinds of comedy routines that Martin used to mock so well in his stand-up acts. Little else in the book is illuminating either—the natural beauty and artificial injection of Los Angeles are glorified and condemned in the old familiar ways. There's even a sappy subplot involving Mirabelle's fathertrying to get over the psychological scars of Vietnam.

Martin was wise to make the book little more than one hundred pages. His brevity saves Shopgirl from becoming tedious, and his deft styling and nice descriptions keep the story flowing along. "The overhead lights reflect in the glass countertop and mingle with the gray and black of the gloves, resulting in a mother-of-pearl swirl that sometimes sends Mirabelle into a shallow hypnotic dream," reads one passage. The book is like that too, a shallow hypnotic dream that pulls you through to the end without leaving you feeling ripped off for the few hours invested. It's a quick and harmless read that shows the potential of a writer who shouldn't be satisified spooning out irony for the New Yorker set.
—Steve Wilson

From The Critics
Recommendation: ***

I'm Glad I Don't Work Retail Anymore!

Mirabelle Buttersfield works in the glove department of Neiman's in Los Angeles. She rarely has customers, but she has a rich interior life. A trained artist who battles the demons of depression, Mirabelle's days are filled with work, a few friends and two cats (one of which she doesn't see — just feeds).

Mirabelle's life changes when a millionaire from Seattle takes a fancy to her. Their relationship is open and non-restrictive, but from the experiences she has, Mirabelle is able to expand her horizons enough to be ready for love when it does appear in its truest form.

I liked this little book and recommend it with some reservations: (1) it's not light fiction as one might expect from a comedian like Steve Martin; (2) there is no fairy tale here, even though Ray Porter seems like a Prince at first; and (3) there wasn't enough character development (other than Mirabelle) to suit me. I look forward to reading more from Martin once he finds his style.

Logan Hill
[A] modest, sensitive book about love and sex from the female perspective, and L.A. fairy tale about a sweet, sad artiste trapped behind the anchronistic glove counter.
New York Magazine
Kirkus Reviews
The delicacy of Martin's perception is so appealing that he

succeeds in building a novella... [and] It's... reassuring to think of the

author... as a concerned parent who gently heads off every answer readers

could possibly have about this bedtime story of loneliness faced and

conquered before he finally turns out the light.

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780786885688
  • Publisher: Hyperion
  • Publication date: 10/3/2001
  • Edition description: Reprint
  • Pages: 130
  • Sales rank: 481,509
  • Product dimensions: 5.25 (w) x 8.00 (h) x 0.37 (d)

Meet the Author

Steve Martin is a celebrated writer, actor, and performer. His film credits include Father of the Bride, Parenthood and The Spanish Prisoner, as well as Roxanne, L.A. Story, and Bowfinger, for which he also wrote the screenplays. He's won Emmys for his television writing and two Grammys for comedy albums. In addition to a play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, he has written a bestselling collection of comic pieces, Pure Drivel, and a bestselling novella, Shopgirl. His work appears frequently in The New Yorker and The New York Times. He lives in New York and Los Angeles.

Biography

"If Woody Allen is the archetypal East Coast neurotic, Steve Martin is the ultimate West Coast wacko," Maureen Orth wrote for Newsweek in 1977. At the time, Martin was a star on the standup comedy circuit, known for his nose glasses, bunny ears and sudden attacks of "happy feet." More than 20 years later, the idea that the two are counterparts still seems apt: Like Woody Allen, Steve Martin has gone from comedy writer and performer to scriptwriter, director, playwright and book author. But while Woody Allen's transformation from angst-ridden intellectual into Bergman-inspired auteur was something fans might have anticipated, who would have guessed that the wild and crazy guy with the arrow through his head harbored a passion for philosophy, art and literature?

Growing up in Orange County, California, Martin worked afternoons, weekends and summers at Disneyland, where he learned to do magic tricks, make balloon animals and perform vaudeville routines. By the time he was 18, he was performing at Knott's Berry Farm while attending junior college. He was a bright but unenthusiastic student until a girlfriend (and her loan of Somerset Maugham's The Razor's Edge) inspired him to transfer to Long Beach State and major in philosophy. There, he delved into metaphysics, semantics and logic before concluding that he was meant for the arts. He transferred again, to the theater department at UCLA, and started performing comedy in local clubs. Truth in art, he later said, "can't be measured. You don't have to explain why, or justify anything. If it works, it works. As a performer, non sequiturs make sense, nonsense is real." (Aha -- there was a philosophical impulse behind those bunny ears.)

After a string of successful T.V. comedy-writing gigs, Martin got back into performing, and a few years later, he was landing spots on "The Tonight Show" and guest-hosting "Saturday Night Live," where he performed his famous King Tut routine. His first album, Let's Get Small, won a Grammy and was the best-selling comedy album of 1977. His first book, Cruel Shoes, was a collection of comic vignettes with titles like "How to Fold Soup" and "The Vengeful Curtain Rod." And his starring role in The Jerk kicked off a highly successful film career that includes more than 20 hit movies, including Roxanne and L.A. Story, both of which Martin wrote and directed.

Early on, critics classed Steve Martin with comedians like Martin Mull and Chevy Chase -- goofy white guys whose slapstick comedy had no overt political message, though it might have a postmodern touch of self-critique. But Martin kept scaling the heights of absurdity until he'd reached an altitude all his own. Beginning in 1994, he took two years off from movie acting to concentrate on his writing. The result was Picasso at the Lapin Agile, a surreal comedy about Picasso and Einstein that won critical and popular acclaim: "More laughs, more fun and more delight than anything currently on the New York stage," raved The New York Observer.

Though Martin went back to the movies, he also kept on writing, turning out several more plays and a series of ingeniously demented essays for The New Yorker and The New York Times, many of which are collected in book form in Pure Drivel. Then, in 2000, he surprised readers with his bestselling book Shopgirl, a tender, insightful novella about a Neiman Marcus clerk and her two suitors. These days, Martin is recognized as a "gorgeous writer capable of being at once melancholy and tart, achingly innocent and astonishingly ironic" (Elle). He's also been tapped to host ceremonies for the prestigious National Book Awards. It seems the man who once defined comedy as "acting stupid so other people can laugh" is in fact one of the smartest guys ever to emerge from L.A.

Good To Know

As a stand-up comedian on "The Tonight Show", Martin was demoted to guest-host nights for a while because Johnny Carson didn't think his act -- which could include reading from the phone book or telling jokes to four dogs onstage -- was funny.

After he became nationally famous as a comedian, Martin joked that his new wealth had allowed him to buy "some pretty good stuff. Got me a $300 pair of socks, got a fur sink ... let's see ... an electric dog-polisher, a gasoline-powered turtleneck sweater ... and of course I bought some dumb stuff, too." Actually, Martin is a serious art collector whose purchases include paintings and drawings by Roy Lichtenstein, Francis Bacon, Pablo Picasso and David Hockney.

Martin's marriage to the actress Victoria Tennant ended in 1994. But it was his subsequent breakup with actress Anne Heche that really broke his heart, he hinted in an Esquire interview. "I spent about a year recovering, and searching out myself and asking why things happened the way they did. I wrote a play about it, Patter for the Floating Lady. Oh, I shouldn't have told you that. I should have said I made it up."

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    1. Also Known As:
      Stephen Martin (full name)
    2. Hometown:
      Beverly Hills, California
    1. Date of Birth:
      August 14, 1945
    2. Place of Birth:
      Waco, Texas
    1. Education:
      Long Beach State College; University of California, Los Angeles
    2. Website:

Read an Excerpt



Chapter One


WHEN YOU WORK IN THE glove department at Neiman's, you are selling things that nobody buys anymore. These gloves aren't like the hard-working ones sold by L.L. Bean; these are so fine that a lady wearing them can still pick up a straight pin. The glove department is adjacent to the couture department and is really there for show. So a lot of Mirabelle's day is spent leaning against the glass case with one leg cocked behind her and her arms splayed outward, resting on her palms against the countertop. On an especially slow day she might lean over the case on her elbows—although this position is definitely not preferred by the management—and stare through the glass at the leather and silk gloves that lie on display like pristine, just-caught fish. The overhead lights reflect in the glass countertop and mingle with the gray and black of the gloves, resulting in a mother-of-pearl swirl that sometimes sends Mirabelle into a shallow hypnotic dream.

    Everyone is silent at Neiman's, as though it were a religious site, and Mirabelle always tries to quiet the tap-tap-tapping of her heels when she walks across the percussive marble floors. If you saw her, you would assume By her gait that she is in danger of slipping at any moment. However, this is the way Mirabelle walks all the time, even on the sure friction of a concrete sidewalk. She has simply never quite learned to walk or hold herself comfortably, which makes her come off as an attractive wallflower. For Mirabelle, the high point of working at a department store is that she gets to dress up to go to work, as the Neiman's dress codeencourages her to be a model of precision and style. Her problem, of course, is paying for the clothes that she favors, but one way or another, helped out by a generous employee discount and a knack for mixing and matching a recycled dress with a 50 percent off Armani sweater, she manages to dress well without straining her budget.

    Every day at lunchtime she walks around the corner into Beverly Hills to the Time Clock Café, which offers her a regular lunch at a nominal price. One sandwich, which always amounts to three dollars and seventy-five cents, a side salad, and a drink, and she can keep her tab just under her preferred six-dollar maximum, which can surge to nearly eight dollars if she opts for dessert. Sometimes, a man whose name she overheard once—Tom, she thinks it is—will eye her legs, which show off nicely as she sits at a wrought-iron table so shallow it forces her to angle them out into the aisle. Mirabelle, who never takes credit for her attractiveness, believes it is not she he is responding to but rather something independent of her, like the lovely line her fine blue skirt makes as it cuts diagonally across the white of her thigh.

    The rest of the day at Neiman's sees her leaning or bending or rearranging, with the occasional odd customer pulling her out of the afternoon's slow motion until 6 P.M. finally ticks over. She then closes the register and walks over to the elevator, her upper body rigid. She descends to the first floor and passes the glistening perfume counters, where the salesgirls stay a full half hour after closing to accommodate late buyers, and where by now, the various scents that have been sprayed throughout the day onto waiting customers have collected into strata in the department store air. So Mirabelle, at five-six, always smells Chanel number 5, while someone at five-two is always treated to the heavier Chanel number 19. This daily walk always reminds her that she works in the Siberia of Neiman's, the isolated, landlocked glove department, and she wonders when she will be moved around in the hierarchy to at least perfume, because there, in the energetic, populated worlds of cosmetics and aromatics, she can get that which she wants more than anything: someone to talk to.

    Depending on the time of year, Mirabelle's drive home offers either the sunny evening light of summer or the early darkness and halogen headlights of winter in Pacific standard time. She traverses Beverly Boulevard, the chameleon street with elegant furniture stores and restaurants on one end and Vietnamese shops selling mysterious packaged roots on the other. In fifteen miles, like a Monopoly game in reverse, this street dwindles in property value and ends at her second-story apartment in Silverlake, an artists' community that is always bordering on being dangerous but never quite succeeding. Some evenings, if the timing is right, she can climb the outdoor stairs to her walkup and catch L.A.'s most beautiful sight: a Pacific sunset cumulating over the spread of lights that flows from her front-door stoop to the sea. She then enters her apartment, which for no good reason doesn't have a window to the view, and the disappearing sun finally blackens everything outside, transforming her windows into mirrors.

    Mirabelle has two cats. One is normal, the other is a reclusive kitten who lives under a sofa and rarely comes out. Very rarely. Once a year. This gives Mirabelle the feeling that there is a mysterious stranger living in her apartment whom she never sees but who leaves evidence of his existence by subtly moving small, round objects from room to room. This description could easily apply to Mirabelle's few friends, who also leave evidence of their existence, in missed phone messages and rare get-togethers, and are also seldom seen. This is because they view her as an oddnik, and their failure to include her leaves her alone on many nights. She knows that she needs new friends but introductions are hard to come by when your natural state is shyness.

    Mirabelle replaces the absent friends with books and television mysteries of the PBS kind. The books are mostly nineteenth-century novels in which women are poisoned or are doing the poisoning. She does not read these books as a romantic lonely hearts turning pages in the isolation of her room, not at all. She is instead an educated spirit with a sense of irony. She loves the gloom of these period novels, especially as kitsch, but beneath it all she finds that a part of her identifies with all that darkness.

    There is something else, too: Mirabelle can draw. Her output is small in quantity and size. Only a few four-by-five-inch drawings are finished in a year, and they are infused with the eerie spirit of the mysteries she reads. She densely coats the paper with a black waxy crayon, covering everything except the image she wants to reveal, which appears to be floating up through the blackness. Her latest is a rendering of a crouching child charred stiff in the lava of Pompeii. Her drawing hand is sure, trained in the years she spent acquiring a master of fine arts degree at a California college while incurring thirty-nine thousand dollars of debt from student loans. This degree makes her a walking anomaly among the perfume girls and shoe clerks at Neiman's, whose highest accomplishments are that they were cute in high school. Rarely, but often enough to have a small collection of her own work, Mirabelle gets out the charcoals and pulls the kitchen lamp down low, near the hard surface of her breakfast table, and makes a drawing. It is then properly fixed and photographed and stowed away in a professional portfolio. These nights of drawing leave her exhausted, for they require the full concentration of her energy, and on those evenings she stumbles to bed and falls into a dead sleep.

    On a normal night, her routine is very simple, involving the application of lotion to her body while chattering to the visible kitten, with occasional high-voiced interjections to the assumed cat under the sofa. If there were a silent observer, Mirabelle would be seen as a carefree, happy girl who is preparing for a night on the town. But in reality, these activities are the physical manifestations of her stillness.

    Tonight, as the evening closes, Mirabelle slips into bed, says an audible good night to both cats, and shuts her eyes. Her hand clicks off the lamp next to her, and her head fills with ghosts. Now her mind can wander in any landscape it desires, and she makes a nightly ritual of these waking dreams. She sees herself standing on the edge of a tropical lagoon. A man comes up from behind her, wraps his arms around her, buries his face in her neck, and whispers, "don't move." The image generates a damp first molecule of wetness between her legs, and she presses her bladed hand between them, and falls asleep.

    In the morning, the dry food that had heen laid out in a bowl the night before is now gone, more evidence of the phantom cat. Mirabelle, sleepy eyed and still groggy, prepares her breakfast and takes her Serzone. The Serzone is a gift from God that frees her from the immobilizing depression that would otherwise surround her and seep into her body like a poisonous fog. The drug distances the depression from her, although it is never out of sight. It is also the third mood elevator that she has tried in as many years. The first two worked, and worked well for a while, then abruptly dropped her. There is always a struggle as the new drug, which for a while has to be blended with the old one, takes root in her brain and begins to work its mysterious chemistry.

    The depression she battles is not the newly acquired symptom of a young woman now living in Los Angeles on her own. It was first set in the bow in Vermont, where she grew up, and fired as a companion arrow that has traveled with her ever since. With the drug, she is generally able to corner it and keep it separate from her daily life. There are black stretches, however, when she is unable to move from her bed. She takes full advantage of the sick days that are built into her work allowances at Neiman's.

    In spite of her depression, Mirabelle likes to think of herself as humorous. She can, when the occasion calls. become a wisecracker and buoyant party girl. This mood, Mirabelle thinks, sometimes makes her the center of attention at parties and gatherings. The truth is that these episodes of gaiety merely raise her to normal, but for Mirabelle the feeling is so exceptional that she believes herself to be standing out. The power at these parties remains with the neurotically spirited women, who attract men whose need it is to tame them. Mirabelle attracts men of a different kind. They are shyer and more reticent. They look at her a long time before approaching, and when they do find something about her that they want, it is something simple within her.


jeremy


AT TWENTY-SIX, JEREMY IS two years younger than Mirabelle. He grew up in the slacker-based L.A. high school milieu, where aspiration languishes and the lucky ones get kick-started in their first year of college by an enthused and charismatic professor. He had no college dreams and hence no proximity to the challenge of new faces and ideas—he currently stencils logos on amplifiers for a living—and Jeremy's life after high school slid sideways on an imperceptibly canted icy slope, angling away from center. It is appropriate that he and Mirabelle met at a Laundromat, the least noir dating arena on earth. Their first encounter began with "hey," and ended with a loose "see ya," as Mirabelle stood amidst her damp underwear and jogging shorts.

    Jeremy took Mirabelle on approximately two and a half dates. The half date was actually a full evening, but was so vaporous that Mirabelle had trouble counting it as a full unit. On the first, which consisted mainly of shuffling around a shopping mall while Jeremy tried to graze her ass with the back of his hand, he split the dinner bill with her and then, when she suggested they actually go inside the movie theatre whose new neon front so transfixed Jeremy, made her pay for her own ticket. Mirabelle could not afford to go out again under the same circumstances, and there was no simple way to explain this to him. The conversation at dinner hadn't been successful either; it bore the marks of an old married couple who had very little left to say to each other. After walking her to her door, he gave her his phone number, in a peculiar reversal of dating procedure. She might have considered kissing him, even after the horrible first date, but he just didn't seem to know what to do. However, Jeremy does have one outstanding quality. He likes her. And this quality in a person makes them infinitely interesting to the person who is being liked. At the end of their first date, as she stepped inside her apartment and her hand was delivering the door to its jamb, there was a slight pause, and they exchanged a quick look of inexplicable intent. Once inside, instead of forever losing his number in her coat pocket, she absentmindedly stuck it under her phone.

    Six days after their first date, which had cut Mirabelle's net worth by 20 percent, she runs into Jeremy again at the Laundromat. He waves at her, gives her the thumbs-up sign, then watches her as she loads clothes into the machines. He seems unable to move, but speaks just loudly enough for his voice to carry over twelve clanking washing machines, "Did you watch the game last night?" Mirabelle is shocked when she later learns that Jeremy considers this their second date. This fact comes out when at one abortive get-together, Jeremy invokes the "third date" rule, believing he should be received at second base. Mirabelle is not fooled by any such third date rule, and she explains to Jeremy that she cannot conceive of any way their Laundromat encounter, or any encounter involving the thumbs-up sign, can be considered a date.

    This third date is also problematic because after warning Jeremy that she is not going to pay half of its cost, she is taken to a bowling alley and forced to pay for her own rental shoes. Jeremy explains that bowling shoes are an article of clothing, and he certainly can't be expected to pay for what she wears on a date. If only Jeremy's logical mind could be applied to astrophysics and not rental shoes, he would now be a honcho at NASA. He does cough up for dinner and several games, even though he uses discount coupons clipped from the newspaper to help pay for it all. Finally, Mirabelle suggests that if they have future dates, he should take her phone number, call her, and they could do free things. Mirabelle knows, and she lets this be unspoken, that all free things require conversation. Sitting in a darkened movie theatre requires absolutely no conversation at all, whereas a free date, like a walk down Hollywood Boulevard in the busy evening, requires comments, chatter, observations, and with luck, wit. She worries that since they have only exchanged perhaps two dozen words between them, these free dates will be horrible. She is still willing to go out with him, however, until something less horrible comes along.

    Jeremy's attraction to Mirabelle arises from her passing similarity to someone he had fallen in love with in his preadolescent life. This person is Popeye's girlfriend, Olive Oyl, whom he used to swoon over in a few antique comic books lent to him by his uncle. And yes, Mirabelle does bear some similarity, but only after the suggestion is made. You would not walk into a room, see her for the first time, and think Olive Oyl. However, once the idea is proposed, one's response might be a long, slow, "ahhhh ... yes." She has a long thin body, two small dark eyes, and a small red mouth. She also dresses like Olive Oyl, in fitted clothes—never a fluffy, girly dress—and she holds herself like Ms. Oyl, too, in a kind of jangle. Olive Oyl has no breasts, but Mirabelle does, though the way she carries herself, with her shoulders folded, in clothing that never accentuates her curves, makes her appear flat. All this in no way discounts her attractiveness. Mirabelle is attractive; it's just that she is never the first or second girl chosen. But to Jeremy, Mirabelle's most striking resemblance to Olive Oyl is her translucent skin. It recalls for him the pale skin of the cartoon figure, which was actually the creamy paper showing from underneath.

    Jeremy's thought process is so thin that he has the happy consequence of always ending up doing exactly what he wants to do at all times. He never complicates a desire by overthinking it, unlike Mirabelle, who spins a cocoon around an idea until it is immobile. His view of the world is one that keeps his blood pressure low, sweeping the cholesterol from his relaxed, freeway-sized arteries. Everyone knows he is going to live till age ninety, although the question that goes begging is, "for what?"

    Jeremy and Mirabelle are separated by a hundred million miles of vacuum space. He falls asleep at night in blissful ignorance. She, subtly doped on her prescription, time-travels through the terrain of her unconscious until she is overcome by sleep. He knows only what is right in front of him; she is aware of every incoming sensation that glances obliquely against her soft, fragile core. At this stage of their lives, in true and total fact, the only thing they have in common is a Laundromat.

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  • Posted March 8, 2010

    Pleasantly Surprised!

    This offbeat romance was delightful. Mr. Martin's writing style is fresh and engaging. The book was a quick and easy read, but there was excellent character development. It was laugh out loud funny in parts, but also very poignant. I frequently found myself re-reading certain lines because I loved the unique way in which they were written. It is intelligent and does not have the pat ending of many other light romance stories. It is probably more accurately described as a novella than a book, but the length seemed just right for the story. I look forward to reading more stories by Steve Martin if they are as sharp, witty and quirky as this one.

    4 out of 4 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted October 25, 2008

    more from this reviewer

    I like the movie more...

    Shopgirl is an amusing character study. Mirabelle, a 28 year old, is kind of stuck in a post-college pre-career limbo. She gets involved with two different men; Ray Porter, a millionaire in his 50's and Jeremy, a 20 something who still acts like a teenager. Each of these men have faults as well as redeeming qualities. Mirabelle gets her heart broken but in the end, she finds happiness. Shopgirl has truly hilarious episodes. It has a more somber side though when we see the effects of giving yourself totally to someone only to have them take a tiny piece of you. I really like these characters, they are quite quirky. Overall, Shopgirl is an entertaining novella but I enjoyed the movie more.

    2 out of 2 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted March 1, 2012

    more from this reviewer

    one of my favourite books

    it's beautiful. read it. Based on how much I loved this book, I bought The Pleasure of my Company, and An Object of Beauty; his gentle humor in the event of ridiculous circumstance is what I keep coming back for. He reminds me of a modern-day Somerset Maugham.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Posted April 28, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    Interesting read!

    The perspective that the book was written in was very interesting. The story was short, but mostly to the point. I would be interested to see what happened to the characters down the road. In my opinion, the story could have had more to it.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted February 18, 2008

    A reviewer

    I really love this book. I have read it three times now, and each time, I take something new from it and build a deeper understanding of the characters. I recommend this book to everyone I know! And please, read the book before you watch the movie! The book, as always, is so much better than the film.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 7, 2006

    2 lovers and no love

    I read this book over the summer and I read it again later on. I enjoyed it both times. The story just keeps building as the book continues and it also diminishes. Who would know that a life without love is no life at all. This book overall made me realize that sometimes it better not to force things. Let fate take its own course. Oh and about the movie...you know the book is always better so dont criticize just enjoy :)

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 3, 2006

    I expected better

    I have always enjoyed Steve Martin's work -- on TV or in movies he always made me laugh, often with his gifted physical humor, but just as often with his dry, witty observations. Martin's best work has always been that which he wrote himself, so with that in mind I decided to read Shopgirl before watching the movie. The story revolves around a classic love triangle situation -- shy, awkward young girl attempts to choose between two suitors, the older rich man who is also emotionally distant, and the young fella who hasn't quite gotten his life in order. Although Shopgirl is a character-driven story, it is ironic that the characters are little more than stereotypes (besides the above, there is also the shallow young vain girl, and the emotionally withdrawn Vietnam Veteran dad, to name a couple). Everyone has a story arc in which they mature and grow in exactly the ways we expect. Martin's prose is distant and withdrawn, often choosing to describe actions, thoughts and conversations rather than show them occurring ('show, don't tell' is often the editor's plea to young writers, and Martin could have used more of that advice). I suppose I should comment on Martin's witty remarks, which populate much of the first half of the novella before the tone turns more serious. Sarcastic asides pepper the early pages, as though this was merely a collection of Martin's observations of life in Beverly Hills rather than an attempt at a story. For example: 'In Beverly Hills, young men, searching for young women who remind them of their face-lifted mothers, are stranded and forlorn in a sea of natural-looking twenty-five-year-olds.' Martin should be above such petty snobbery, yet he sinks to it often. I found myself depressed after finishing, so I suppose the story and characters may have some emotional weight after all. But, frankly, I expected better.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 2, 2006

    Different, but good

    This book was one I had wanted to read for awhile. I was very interested in seeing the way Steve Martin would write. Although this book was a little graphic and very intense in some parts, in a odd way, really enjoyed watching the main chracter Mirabelle 'grow up'. I wouldn't say it was the best book I've ever read, but I would recommend it. I t was very compelling and a psychological way.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted April 4, 2006

    Didn't meet expectations

    I read this a couple months before the movie was to be released having heard great things about it, but I was definitely disappointed. The story didn't really captivate me, the characters were weakly developed, and it was just depressing overall. I can see the kind of dispirited, witty, intellectual novella Martin was aiming for, but I don't think he quite hit the mark. Honestly, I only continued reading expecting it to get considerably better somewhere, but I was pretty much bored throughout the whole book.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 5, 2006

    College student

    I got the book for my Eng class, and I had to write a paper on it. Right from the beginning the book kept me addicted. Some would say that it's a simple book, but the book is about a girl's life and journey to self-discovery, wh/ is really entertaining. I would recommend it to anybody that just wants to read something entertaining and funny at the same time.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 16, 2006

    'Pure Drivel' would have suited this books title

    I am a big Steve Martin fan and maybe the movie will be better than the book. A bunch of one dimesional men and women that judge each other by the clothes they wear. There is only one funny moment in the book. The rest of it is a feeble attemplt to define these stereotypical characters.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 21, 2005

    disappointing, really...and diminished by tacky scenes

    Yes, Martin's prose is well constructed and his observations insightful...but also so depressing. I'd waited a long time to read this, looking forward to enjoying it. Sigh. And I can see why the movie will be rated 'R'. Can't anyone write an inteligent, mature novel (or novella) with using schoolboy descriptions?

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted September 5, 2005

    I thought it was insightful book.

    I got this book a few months ago and finally sat down and read it, in two days. It shows you how people are flawed and how people may not fully understand the harm that they do to each other, how self-esteem plays a factor. But I enjoyed the main character's journey to self-discovery.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 10, 2004

    A smooth read

    I read a variety of different books generally to fill the hour commute each way to/from work. This was not what I expected, but still a good read. Not a book to read if you are looking for humor from Steve Martin. It is a sort of poignant story about the dating scene and the search for love from 4 interwoven stories. The tone is low-level throughout, a smooth read that is over before you know it. While it does not have the upbeat happy ending that I enjoy, there is something to say about the depiction of a good ending to the wrong relationship. I was pleasantly surprised by this non-traditional novella by Steve Martin.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 4, 2004

    Leaves something to be desired...

    'Shopgirl' does have its humorous moments, but it's not classic Martin. Rather, it's a darker brand of reality (if one considers LA to be reality). Martin's first full-length fiction book is as fully developed as the premise is original. Martin updates the age-old love triangle consisting, in his tale, of Mirabelle, a lonely young girl in need of true love; Ray Porter, a well-off older man exploring the ways of women; and Jeremy, a young convenient 'knight,' although he's hardly the shining-armor type. The title character is Mirabelle, 28, who moved to California with dreams of a 'real' life but instead finds herself dependent on a myriad of anti-depressants and working at Neiman Marcus to pay off college loans. Her void in social interaction parallels her life outside of work. A sex-crazed girl in the perfume department seemingly foils Mirabelle at one point, but isn't given enough description or time to develop. Martin's prose is bland and overly descriptive. He does not provide enough depth or description in character development but goes well beyond when analyzing day-to-day life and characters' appearances and actions. This style occasionally impedes the flow of the story, but overall it enriches the text and forces the reader to pay more attention to one's unconscious observations throughout the daily routine. He accomplishes this with an omniscient narrator and thus lends a unique angle to the story. One technique, which Martin developed well but failed to use often enough, was his original dialogue. Like the great description of Ray's goal of getting into bed without a commitment, and Mirabelle's stereotypical interpretation of that as commitment and love. The novel is too short to develop more than the superficial plot of love triangle. Martin is clearly new to the genre and his novella leaves something to be desired. But he has the mark of a talented observer, and I hope he will develop this in another work with a less convenient turn of events.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted May 6, 2003

    Can't Wait to read MORE from Steve Martin

    This book is sweet and sad, funny yet sorrowful. Meet Mirabelle, shopgirl and artist. Meet her sometime boyfriend, Jeremy, and meet Mr. Ray Porter, the fifty-something man she¿s also dating. The story isn¿t your run-of-the-mill romance in Los Angeles (and to quote the book, the city where practically everything is fake), but what romance should be? This book is a very quick read filled with characters you could imagine meeting, knowing, liking, and rooting for. There was, however, a specific event mentioned and questions were raised about Mirabelle¿s father that Mr. Martin doesn¿t clear up at the end that either could have been left out altogether or tidied up. All in all, a very good read.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted November 21, 2002

    Shopgirl - a review

    Shopgirl was one of the best books that I have read in a while, plus to boot it was written by Steve Martin. I felt I could relate to Mirabelle and her life. She see's how the other half lives, but just wants to be happy in her own world. She finds a man her age who could really care less, and then she finds the "older man". She doesn't base her self on the men she dates, but lets them hold importance in her life. A great coming of age story. I only wish that quality writing like this came around more often.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted January 5, 2003

    Better left unread

    Read another book by the creative and funny Steve Martin, but skip this one. He can do better. In Shopgirl a well-meaning lonely rich guy in his fifties enjoys a relationship and casual sex with a 28 year old. On various occasions he tries vaguely and unsuccessfully to make it clear to her that this could not develop into a long term relationship. The relationship goes around and around: She is in denial about being hurt, and he is in denial about hurting her. There are some clever art, insights, and descriptions here and there about loneliness that I could relate to. Overall, however, I would not recommend this book for many reasons. None of the main characters take chances in their lives. The repeat pattern of denial by a clueless man in his fifties about his and her needs in the relationship seems as if he just landed on this planet. It is hard to believe the change of a minor character from basically the village idiot to a brainy, wise, salesman of high-end audio equipment. The preoccupation of all the characters about fashion is annoying. Mr. Martin is highly talented and I would enjoy reading anything else that had a more believable storyline.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted August 26, 2002

    Couldn't be better...

    This is one of my all time favorite books. The simplicity of this book is what makes it so wonderful. At times, yes, it is funny, but not like many might think. I think some people purchase this book looking for typical 'funny/witty/joking Steve Martin' and those people will be let down. This is a book of rare beauty, describing an ordinary woman, in ordinary situations. What makes this book so great is how Steve Martin can take the everyday and turn it into a work of art simply by putting the words in order. The book reads very fast and the characters are very real each with their own unique, realistic flaws. This book would have been published with or without Steve Martins celebrity, he is a brilliant writer and I hope that he continues to write.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted July 2, 2002

    Most INVENTIVE book ever!

    I just finished reading Shop Girl and I absolutely love it! Martin's writing technique is like no other. If you think he's funny in his movies, read this book and you'll get a new understanding of him. This book isn't the classic happy ending but more of a twist into a real-life scenario. Looking foward to reading Pure Drivel.

    1 out of 1 people found this review helpful.

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