25. Shopgirl by Steve Martin

I just sent in my list of favorite books I read this year during the cannonball read, and I’m already regretting not putting Shopgirl on the list. Although this was really a re-reading, since I first read Shopgirl around 2004, when I was much younger than Martin’s target audience, I loved it just as much the second time around. Some books, for whatever reason, just end up resonating with you. I think it has to do with place, time, and who you are at that particular moment more than the books themselves, but Shopgirl has always been one of those books for me. I’ve always seen melancholy as more of a sadness tinged with happiness, and I think that particular feeling captures this book very well. That Martin has even described this book as a novella seems fitting – at just 130 pages, it’s a quick read, but to me it feels like a longer, more luxurious book, something to savor.

The book centers around Mirabelle, a lonely and introverted girl who works at the glove counter at Neiman Marcus in LA. She meets Ray, an older man (even before the movie came out, I always imagined Steve Martin as Ray) and they begin to see each other. Martin does a fantastic job of painting Mirabelle’s single life, her inner thoughts and desires, but maintains a certain aloofness in her description. Mirabelle is isolated and lonely, as is Ray. Their courtship is strange, but it works. The second man in Mirabelle’s life is Jeremy, a young, but messy and immature boy with whom she occasionally sleeps. Ray and Jeremy are complete opposites and reflect the two contradictory but defining aspects of Mirabelle’s personality.

I loved this book in a whole new way this time, being older and more experienced, and I was able to connect with Mirabelle in a completely different way. I think if the book had been longer, the melancholy tone wouldn’t have worked quite as well, but Martin establishes a firm background in great detail, then glides through large chunks of time, like a visitor in Mirabelle’s life. For me, this book provokes a lot of the same sentiments as reading French poetry – and I completely realize that this isn’t for everyone. However, if you’re intrigued, I wholeheartedly recommend Shopgirl; it’s a beautiful and mellow way to wallow for a few hours.

Pages: 130/6916

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~ by lefaquin on January 2, 2013.

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