Martin, Steve. The Pleasure of My Company.

NY: Hyperion, 2003.

Anyone who has been paying attention for the past couple of decades knows that Steve Martin is considerably more than a wild and crazy guy with an arrow through his head. Among other things, he’s a very talented author of fiction, though he prefers novella-length to the epic. He’s also rather less interested in action plots than he is in the investigation of unusual characters (not unlike himself, one presumes).

The narrator of this little gem is Daniel Pecan Cambridge, who may be twenty-seven or thirty-eight, or any age in-between, depending on how he’s feeling that day. He’s not a dummy — in fact he’s smart enough to have applied to Mensa, though he’s not sure they scored his test correctly — but he does have a variety of behavioral limitations he has to deal with, all of which he’s well aware of. In fact, he sees them as voluntary decisions on his part. (He could do something different. He just doesn’t want to.) For instance, the light bulbs in his apartment have to total 1125 watts, when lit. (And those thirty-watters are hard to find.) He can’t cross the street except by going down a driveway and up a matching one on the other side. Stepping off an eight-inch curb is not an option. (“Who designs these things, Daffy Duck?”) There’s a little of the Rain Man in him, too; he can tell you instantly what day of the week any date in history fell on, and he creates large complex magic squares in his head, which helps calm him when he feels panic approaching (as when some motorist callously blocks a driveway, trapping him on his side of the street). He lives, of course, in Santa Monica, the perfect town for people like him. (“Average is not the norm here.”)

Daniel manages to function, though, more or less. He’s even on friendly terms with several young women (some of whom actually know he exists). There’s Philippa, upstairs, with Brian the Brainless Boyfriend, and there’s Elizabeth, the real estate agent, whom he watches as she tends her “For Rent” signs, and there’s Zandy, the California Girl behind the pharmacy counter at the Rite-Aid. And there’s Granny on her pecan plantation back in Texas (hence his middle name), who is the only one in his family who actually understands and accepts him, and who sends him money on occasion. And, of course, there’s Clarissa, the student shrink, who pays him twice-weekly visits, courtesy of the State of California, and whom he analyzes more closely than she appears capable of analyzing him. But then certain disruptive influences enter his life, and he finds himself behaving outside his usual rigid formulae. And before he knows it, everything is changing.

Having read a number of the author’s works now, and seen several of the films for which he wrote the screenplays, I suspect I could read his next book without having seen the author’s name on the cover and nevertheless immediately identify it as his. A lovely way to spend an afternoon.

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Published in: on 15 January 2013 at 5:31 am  Leave a Comment  
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