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The Pleasure of My Company
by Steve Martin
ISBN 0786888016 / 9780786888016 / 0-7868-8801-6
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Of all the celebrities who've tackled novels in recent years, one of the most conspicuously successful in the field is comic actor Steve Martin. In books such as Picasso at the Lapin Agile and Shopgirl, Martin showed the same dazzling wordplay that marks his film and TV work, and his new novel, The Pleasure of My Company, builds on the earlier work to produce a book that is both effortlessly entertaining and beautifully wrought.
Martin's protagonist is Daniel Pecan Cambridge, a thirtyish loser whose life is wrecked by a whole slew of neurotic compulsions and tics. The small, irrational fears that plague most of us are the bane of Daniel's life, but he resolves to shed these straitjackets and move into something like normality. One of his aims is a normal relationship with a woman and there are several potential targets in sight: his therapist Clarissa, struggling to relieve him of his demons, Zandy, the beguiling assistant in the chemist's shop, and Elizabeth, selling apartments in his street.
But his compulsions are only one of his problems; his neighbour Bob has been murdered and Daniel is in the frame for the crime. The attention of the media seems set to keep him living an abnormal life for quite some time, which might undercut his hopes of winning the "Most Average American" competition.
Novels by comedians can often collapse into a series of one-liners, and while there are some zingers here, Martin is a real novelist--this quirky black comedy has both a solidly realised structure and a sharply etched cast. Daniel is a wonderfully characterised anti-hero--a natural, perhaps, for Martin himself to play when the inevitable movie is made. --Barry Forshaw [via]