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Shopgirl: A Novella Hardcover – October 11, 2000


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 144 pages
  • Publisher: Hyperion; 1st edition (October 11, 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0786866586
  • ISBN-13: 978-0786866588
  • Product Dimensions: 8.7 x 5.9 x 0.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.9 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (477 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #56,301 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Amazon.com Review

Steve Martin's first foray into fiction is as assured as it is surprising. Set in Los Angeles, its fascination with the surreal body fascism of the upper classes feels like the comedian's familiar territory, but the shopgirl of the book's title may surprise his fans. Mirabelle works in the glove department of Neiman's, "selling things that nobody buys any more." Spending her days waiting for customers to appear, Mirabelle "looks like a puppy standing on its hind legs, and the two brown dots of her eyes, set in the china plate of her face, make her seem very cute and noticeable." Lonely and vulnerable, she passes her evenings taking prescription drugs and drawing "dead things," while pursuing an on-off relationship with the hopeless Jeremy, who possesses "a slouch so extreme that he appears to have left his skeleton at home." Then Mr. Ray Porter steps into Mirabelle's life. He is much older, rich, successful, divorced, and selfish, desiring her "without obligation." Complicating the picture is Mirabelle's voracious rival, her fellow Neiman's employee Lisa, who uses sex "for attracting and discarding men."

The mutual incomprehension, psychological damage, and sheer vacuity practiced by all four of Martin's characters sees Shopgirl veer rather uncomfortably between a comedy of manners and a much darker work. There are some startling passages of description and interior monologue, but the characters are often rather hazy types. Martin tries too hard in his attempt to write a psychologically intense novel about West Coast anomie, but Shopgirl is still an enjoyable, if rather light, read. --Jerry Brotton

From Publishers Weekly

Movie star Martin shone in the comic essays of last year's Pure DrivelAbut can he write serious fiction? His debut novella gives fans a chance to find out. Shy, depressed, young, lonely and usually broke, Vermont-bred Mirabelle Butterfield sells gloves at the Beverly Hills Neiman Marcus (nobody ever buys); at night, she watches TV with her two cats. Martin's slight plot follows Mirabelle's search for loveAor at least romance and companionshipAwith middle-aged Ray Porter, a womanizing Seattle millionaire who may, or may not, have hidden redeeming qualities. Also in and out of Mirabelle's life are a handful of supporting characters, all of them lonely and alienated, too. There's her father, a dysfunctional Vietnam vet; the laconic, unambitious Jeremy; and Mirabelle's promiscuous, body-obsessed co-worker Lisa. Detractors may call Martin's plot predictable, his characters stereotypes. Admirers may answer thatAas in Douglas CouplandAthese aren't stereotypes but modern archetypes, whose lives must be streamlined if they are to represent ours. Except for its love-hate relations with L.A., little about this book sounds much like Martin; its anxious, sometimes flat prose style can be affecting or disorienting, and belongs somewhere between Coupland and literary chroniclers of depression like Lydia Davis. Martin's first novel is finally neither a triumph nor a disaster: it's yet another of this intelligent performer's attempts to expand his range, and those who will buy it for the name on the cover could do a lot worse. (Oct.)
Copyright 2000 Reed Business Information, Inc.

More About the Author

Steve Martin, one of the most diversified performers in the motion picture industry today--actor, comedian, author, playwright, producer, musician - has been successful as a writer of and performer in some of the most popular movies of recent film history.

In March of 2010, Martin, along with Alec Baldwin, co-hosted the 82nd Annual Academy Awards - his third time serving as host of the prestigious award show.

On January 31st, 2010, Steve Martin's banjo album, The Crow / New Songs For The Five-String Banjo, won a Grammy for Best Bluegrass Album.

Christmas 2009 saw Martin share the screen with Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin in Universal's "It's Complicated." The comedy, directed by Nancy Meyers, tells the story of a divorced couple (Streep and Baldwin) who discover that their feelings for one another might not have completely disappeared. Martin plays Adam, the soft-spoken and sweet architect who also vies for Street's characters' affection.

In 2008, Martin had two books published: In October, Doubleday released a children's book titled The Alphabet from A to Y with Bonus Letter Z!, co-written with fellow The New Yorker illustrator Roz Chast. In December, Martin's autobiography, Born Standing Up, was published by Scribner.

Additionally, in December of 2007, Martin was the recipient of the prestigious Kennedy Center Honor.

In February 2006, Martin was seen in "The Pink Panther" playing the role of Inspector Clouseau, originally made famous by Peter Sellers. The film, which reunites Martin with director Shawn Levy, costarred Beyonce Knowles and Kevin Kline. In 2009, Mr. Martin will revived his role of Inspector Clouseau in "The Pink Panther 2."

In 2005, Martin received critical praise for the Touchstone Pictures film "Shopgirl," costarring Claire Danes and Jason Schwartzman. The screenplay was written by Martin and adapted from his best-selling novella of the same name. "Shopgirl" follows the complexities of a romance between a young girl, who works at a Los Angeles Saks Fifth Avenue glove counter while nurturing dreams of being an artist, and a wealthy older man, who is still learning about the consequences that come with any romantic relationship.

Christmas 2003, Martin starred in the highest grossing film of his career, "Cheaper by the Dozen," directed by Shawn Levy for 20th Century Fox. The family comedy, co-starring Bonnie Hunt and Hillary Duff, has grossed over $135 million domestically. Christmas 2005 saw the much anticipated sequel "Cheaper by the Dozen 2" staring the original cast and adding in a rival family, headed by Eugene Levy. In February of 2003, Martin starred with Queen Latifah in the blockbuster comedy, "Bringing Down the House" for Touchstone Pictures which gross $132.7 million.

Mr. Martin hosted the 75th Annual Academy Awards in 2003, his second time handling those duties, the first being the 73rd Oscars. The 75th Annual Academy Awards was nominated for seven Emmy Awards, including a nomination for "Outstanding Individual Performance In a Variety or Music Program".

Born in Waco, Texas and raised in Southern California, Mr. Martin became a television writer in the late 1960's, winning an Emmy Award for his work on the hit series "The Smothers Brothers Comedy Hour." By the end of the decade he was performing his own material in clubs and on television.

Launched by frequent appearances on Johnny Carson's "Tonight Show," Mr. Martin went on to host several shows in the innovative "Saturday Night Live" series and to star in and co-write four highly rated television specials. When performing on national concert tours, he drew standing-room-only audiences in some of the largest venues in the country. He won Grammy Awards for his two comedy albums, "Let's Get Small" and "A Wild and Crazy Guy," and had a gold record with his single "King Tut." In 2003, Martin also won a Grammy® Award for Best country instrumentalist for his playing on Earl Scruggs 75th Anniversary album.

Mr. Martin's first film project, "The Absent-Minded Waiter," a short he wrote and starred in, was nominated for a 1977 Academy Award. In 1979, he moved into feature films, co-writing and starring in "The Jerk," directed by Carl Reiner. In 1981, he starred opposite Bernadette Peters in Herbert Ross' bittersweet musical comedy, "Pennies From Heaven."

The actor then co-wrote and starred in the 1982 send-up of detective thrillers, "Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid" and the science fiction comedy "The Man With Two Brains," both directed by Carl Reiner. In 1984, Mr. Martin received a Best Actor Award from both the New York Film Critics Association and the National Board of Review for his performance opposite Lily Tomlin in "All of Me," his forth collaboration with writer/director Carl Reiner.

In 1987, his motion picture hit, "Roxanne," a modern adaptation of the Cyrano de Bergerac legend, garnered Martin not only warm audience response, but also a Best Actor Award from the Los Angeles Film Critics Association and Best Screenplay Award from the Writer Guild of America. Mr. Martin was also the executive producer on the film.

In 1988, he costarred with Michael Caine in the hit comedy film "Dirty Rotten Scoundrels," his second feature collaboration with director Frank Oz (the first being "Little Shop of Horrors"). In 1989, he starred with Mary Steenburgen and Diane Wiest in Ron Howard's affectionate family comedy, "Parenthood" for Universal Pictures.

In 1991, Mr. Martin wrote, starred in and co-executive produced the critically acclaimed comedy, "L.A. Story," a motion picture about a love story set in Los Angeles. That same year he made a cameo appearance in Lawrence Kasdan's critically lauded "Grand Canyon" and starred with Diane Keaton in the hit Disney film "Father Of The Bride," receiving the People's Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy Motion Picture for the latter. In 1992, he starred in the Universal comedy feature "Housesitter," opposite Goldie Hawn, winning the People's Choice Award for Favorite Actor in a Comedy, for the second year in a row.

In 1996, he starred again with Diane Keaton in the hit sequel to "Father of the Bride," and was nominated for a Golden Globe Award. In 1997, he received universal critical acclaim for his riveting performance in director David Mamet's thriller, "The Spanish Prisoner."

Mr. Martin wrote and starred in the hilarious 1999 feature comedy, "Bowfinger," opposite Eddie Murphy for Director Frank Oz. The film was showcased at the Deauville International Film Festival.

Mr. Martin's other films include classic comedies like Frank Oz's "Little Shop of Horrors," in which he played a demented dentist; John Hughes' "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," co-starring John Candy and the comic Western send-up "The Three Amigos" co-staring Marin Short and Chevy .

In the fall of 1993, Mr. Martin's first original play, the comedy-drama "Picasso at the Lapin Agile," was presented by Chicago's prestigious Steppenwolf Theatre. Following rave reviews and an extended run in Chicago, the play was presented successfully in Boston and Los Angeles, and then Off-Broadway in New York at the Promenade Theatre, to nationwide critical and audience acclaim. It has since been, and continues to be, mounted in productions worldwide. "WASP" a one act play that Martin wrote, was first performed at the Public Theatre in NY in 1995. "The Underpants," a dark comedy Mr. Martin adapted from the 1911 play by Carl Sterneim, premiered Off-Broadway at the Classic Stage Company on April 4, 2002.

In 1996, Mr. Martin was honored with a retrospective of his work, by the American Film Institute's Third Decade Council at the U.S. Comedy Arts Festival. He was also presented with the Lifetime Achievement Award at the ceremony. In 2004 Martin was honored for his film work by the American Cinematheque.

A selection of paintings from his extensive, private, modern art collection was given a special exhibition at the Bellagio Hotel gallery in Las Vegas in 2000, with catalog notes written for the show my Mr. Martin.

After the success of his first novella Shopgirl Mr. Martin's second novella, "The Pleasure of My Company," published by Hyperion, once again was ranked on best seller lists around the country including the New York Times. He has written a best selling collection of comic pieces, Pure Drivel, and his work frequently appears in The New Yorker and the New York Times.

He lives in New York City and Los Angeles.

Customer Reviews

It's contained story reveals the hearts of it's characters very well.
Ginger
I took a chance with this little book, having never known Steve Martin to write fiction like this, and ended up totally transported.
Amy C. Martiner
I also felt that Martin's writing was a little too bland at some points, and his language didn't fit the book at times.
Bobby Crane

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

127 of 140 people found the following review helpful By Amy C. Martiner on September 29, 2000
Format: Hardcover
I took a chance with this little book, having never known Steve Martin to write fiction like this, and ended up totally transported. I didn't put it down for 2 hours when I first started reading! It's length is right on target, as he has perfectly exposed her life and thoughts simply, without any extranious over-explaining. Although I don't usually focus on an author's gender or life experiences when I read fiction, it's hard not to remember that it's the very famous Steve Martin writing this book. It does not take away from the book. It only makes it more impressive. He's totally pitch perfect with "Mirabelle". Quite amazing.
I HIGHLY recommend this book.
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78 of 90 people found the following review helpful By BeachReader on October 27, 2000
Format: Hardcover
Steve Martin's writing, choice of words, descriptions, and inner dialogues just blew me away! What a guy! Within the first three pages, I felt Mirabelle's desolation and loneliness. Just the title: Shopgirl. So old fashioned --no "sales associate" or other fancy title.
The reader immediately got a sense of the hand-to-mouth existence Mirabelle was leading due to this almost dead-end, low-paying job at Nieman Marcus. I was touched by the sentence about the one thing she really wanted: "someone to talk to". Later in the book, Martin made her paralyzing depression so very real to me that I could feel her desperation and clearly imagine her hitting bottom, emotionally.
Here's a *Martinism* I loved...he calls Beverly Boulevard a "chameleon street". Very clever choice of words. Here's another: "One man stands in the kitchen of a two-million dollar house that overlooks the city, and the other in a one-room garage apartment that the city overlooked."
Mirabelle's relationship with the elusive and wealthy Ray Porter is played out in this short but ultimately satisfying novel, proving that a good author can tell a complete story in only 130 pages. Mirabelle and Ray dance around each other, both misinterpreting the nuances of the relationship. While I felt sorry for Mirabelle and her less-than-ideal life, I also felt sorry for Ray. He was the real proof of the cliche that "money cannot buy happiness."
I would highly recommend this book. If you have any chance to read or listen to any of Martin's interviews, they will enhance your enjoyment.
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27 of 30 people found the following review helpful By Timothy Haugh TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on December 16, 2000
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I have been a fan of Steve Martin from the stand-up/SNL days until now when he's begun a career as a "serious" writer. In a sense, he's grown-up as I've grown-up and his current taste for more intellectual humor has matched my own. His play, Picasso at the Lapin Agile, is one of the most enjoyable I've seen in awhile and is collected in book form with some shorter plays that are also quite good. Additionally, his pieces in the New Yorker have been wonderful.
This novella does not quite reach the heights of some of his other work, though it is an enjoyable read. It has its wry comic moments but this is a much more straightforward work than I've seen from him before. It is really a character study; mainly of the clinically depressed "shopgirl," Mirabelle but also of a number of other characters--boyfriends Ray & Jeremy, co-worker Lisa, and her parents.
The plot is real and relevant enough, exploring the psyches and relationships of these characters. It suffers from the weakness of many an ambitious novella, however. It introduces intriguing points and doesn't take the time to flesh them out and resolve them. Her father's Vietnam experience and its repercussions, for example, is tossed out and left unexplored. More importantly, however, the story is rushed to its conclusion. The early relationship points are explored and then rushed to their finality. There is a lot more that could have been done with this book.
Perhaps I would have been happier with this piece if I'd read it in a magazine. When I pay money for a book, however, I guess I want more of my money's worth. I'm tired of short works being put in hardcover when they don't qualify. This is a trend in modern fiction that is not to be encouraged.
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25 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Bill Jackson on November 12, 2000
Format: Hardcover
If you're looking for another helping of the zany humor for which Steve Martin is best known, don't buy this book. It is most definitley not a knee-slapper and might not even make you laugh out loud. It's just not that kind of a book. What it IS is an elegant, wryly humorous character sketch.
Steve Martin is a talented, observant writer who takes what might in other hands be a banal storyline and crafts it into a marvelous sort of literary still-life. There is no plot to speak of; the beauty of this novella lies in its descriptions and clever turns of phrase.
The book revolves around the largely unexceptional love life of Mirabelle, a shy, depression-prone sales clerk with an artistic flair and difficulty relating to her world. Her paramour, Ray Porter, is an emotionally-challenged older businessman who is unapologetically selfish. Two minor characters provide most of the comic relief: Lisa, a cunning, modern tart who takes Mirabelle's modest success in love as a personal challenge, and Jeremy, a confused Gen X'er who undergoes an improbable transformation. The funniest parts of the book are Martin's description of Lisa's sexual plotting, especially her unusual attention to, shall we say, personal hygiene.
Martin writes with both empathy and humor but never overdoes it and never overreaches. He seems to understand that understatement is one of the most powerful of literary techniques. Some might say that this is a trifle of a book. Maybe so, but it is a delicious morsel all the same.
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