Shopgirl

10873I will admit that I purchased this book (at BookOff, no less) exclusively because I wanted to watch the movie. I wanted to watch the movie because I really love Claire Danes. I really love Claire Danes because of her role in “My So Called Life”. Oh, the webs we weave.

The premise of this book is extraordinarily played out. There is a beautiful twenty-something woman who is having romances with an older, established man with money and someone her age, in the same phase of life struggling with money. WHAT WILL HAPPEN NEXT? Will she choose luxury, ease, and early widowhood or a long life of average struggles with someone who has childhood memories from the same decade?

(Spoilers ahead).

Far from the woman-savvy George Clooney type, our incredibly rich older man is clueless. Ray Porter has missed an entire phase of development and doesn’t know what he is looking for in a woman or what they are looking for in him. He repeatedly tells our heroine that this is not an exclusive arrangement in the beginning. But he waits a year and a half into their relationship to write her a letter, that he gives to her in person, explaining that he just slept with someone else. He is surprised when she falls apart. He later makes comments like, “I think I’ll buy a house in New York so that when I meet someone, etc. etc.” reinforcing that while he loves her in some kinda way, she is not his person. Their separation is an exasperatingly long erosion, where long after they stop sleeping together or visiting he is still bankrolling her and calling weekly.

Meanwhile, the counter balance to the millionaire is your working class Joe type of character, Jeremy, who Mirabelle met in a laundry mat. Initially, Jeremy is also clueless. He is a clumsy lover and insists that they go dutch on all their dates. Things naturally dissipate. While Mirabelle sees Ray we are supposed to believe that Jeremy undergoes an incredible transformation while he is touring with bands, selling amps. This transformation is caused by Jeremy listening to self-help books and Buddhist readings on tape at night, for like a year. Still, there is a genuine tenderness to Jeremy which is endearing.

Martin has Mirabelle and Jeremy run into eachother at an art opening in the midst of the Ray romance, and then once Mirabelle has moved to San Francisco they reconnect and hit their stride as a couple.

During this time Ray is still financing Mirabelle despite her new relationship, and realizes that he feels an obligation to take care of her as if he is her child. He feels he is like a parent to her.

I cannot roll my eyes hard enough.

I must note that Steve Martin comes across as a misogynist in this novella. Mirabelle is a weak, easily manipulated character who is ascribed qualities she doesn’t demonstrate, like being smart. The other women in story (which does not pass the Bechdel test) are weak, if not offensive, depictions of women. Perhaps most telling are the descriptions of Mirabelle’s coworker, Lisa. Lisa is so petty and hyper-sexed that when she intends to sleep with Ray Porter as a one-over on Mirabelle she takes home a completely different man because she does not slow down long enough to even confirm his name. Further, Lisa does nothing to move the plot forward and seems to serve as an outlet for Martin to create caricature of LA women.

While I did laugh out loud a few times, overall this book is just a weak story with little character development. It troubles me that it was a bestseller.

Two stars.

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