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The Pleasure of My Company: A Novel
by Steve Martin
ISBN 0786869216 / 9780786869213 / 0-7868-6921-6
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Readers expecting something zany, something crudely humorous from Steve Martin's second novel, The Pleasure of My Company, will discover much greater riches. While the book has a sense of humor, Martin moves everywhere with a gentler, lighter touch in this elegant little fiction that verges on the profound and poetic.
Daniel Pecan Cambridge is the narrator and central consciousness of the novel (actually a novella). Daniel, an ex-Hewlett-Packard communiqué encoder, is a savant whose closely proscribed world is bounded on every side by neuroses and obsessions. He cannot cross the street except at driveways symmetrically opposed to each, and he cannot sleep unless the wattage of the active light bulbs in his apartment sums to 1,125. Daniel's starved social life is punctuated by twice-weekly visits from a young therapist in training, Clarissa; by his prescription pick-ups from a Rite Aid pharmacist, Zandy; and by his "casual" meetings with the bleach-blond real estate agent, Elizabeth, who is struggling to sell apartments across the street. But Daniel's dysfunctional routines are shattered one day when he becomes entangled in the chaos of Clarissa's life as a single mother. Taking care of Clarissa's tiny son, Teddy, Daniel begins to emerge from the safety of logic, magic squares, and obsessive counting.
Martin's craftsmanship is remarkable. The tightly packed novella paints rich portraits with restraint and balance, including nothing extraneous to Daniel's world. The book does not try for pyrotechnics but is contented with a Zen-like simplicity in both prose and plot. Avoiding the crushing bleakness of much contemporary fiction, Martin insists through Daniel--a man haunted by horrors of his own making--that there is possibility for compassion, that broken lives can actually be healed. --Patrick O'Kelley [via]