Books: But Seriously, Folks

Steve Martin talks about his first novella, a delicate, poignant modern romance about a shy shopgirl

The funny thing about Steve Martin's first work of extended fiction, Shopgirl, is that it's not funny. At least not the laugh-out-loud-and-frighten-the-horses funny of Martin's early stand-up comedy, or of his performance as the man-woman in All of Me, or the humor pieces in his collection Pure Drivel. Shopgirl, which really is about a 28-year-old woman behind the glove counter at the Neiman Marcus department store in Beverly Hills, offers quieter pleasures: a delicate portrait of people inflicting subtle pain on others and themselves, and an appeal to the intelligent heart. Sitting in a restaurant on Manhattan's Upper West Side, Martin...

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