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books and reading

Shopgirl

I’ve been a fan of Steve Martin’s since I saw Roxanne as a kid. He is simply a comedic genius. However, I have a feeling he got his writing gig simply by his name. As a reader, I notice a lot of about writing styles. By no means am I a writer, but I am able to critically analyze writing. Some styles are so unique and seamless that I notice them for positive reasons (I’m thinking Cormac McCarthy, here) and some authors have a tried and true style (like Steinbeck or Hemingway). But Martin employs some odd style choices.

First of all, he wrote this book in present tense. It was jarring enough that I noticed it and couldn’t stop myself from wanting to put it back in its proper past tense. Maybe I’ve just read way too many books written in past tense and the occasional present tense is my own personal issue. But it was also written in 3rd person. I guess this isn’t surprising because it really did feel like watching a movie, like I was reading one big voiceover for someone’s life. Martin also told me a lot, rather than showing me. Lesson one in writing is “show, don’t tell.” He doesn’t follow this rule, though. He explained a lot of character emotions by just putting the info on my plate, rather than leading me down a path of understanding. Finally, he uses a strange fast forwarding technique (months later….) several times and it was really jarring. I didn’t really understand the timeline of the story. These two characters are together for awhile, but with all the strange fast forwarding, I have no idea how long. A year? Two years? It’s a mystery to me.

I gave the book 3 stars because I did want to keep reading and see what happened to the characters, but I really wasn’t invested in them. I didn’t bond with them because they were pretty emptily written. I will forever be a fan of Martin’s movies, and have heard nothing but amazing things about his Broadway show, but his writing career isn’t his best work.