I don’t read books by comedians (anymore). Oh I used to, there was a terrible phase in my late teens when there seemed to be a connection between live stand-up and novels written by said stand ups. Only later did I realise that said connection was generally large chunks of material shoehorned in to fit. So yes, this is probably snobbery, but its hard fought snobbery at my own youth.
Luckily the N19 Library had anticipated my snobbery and put a big red sticker over part of the name on Shopgirl. So taking home the latest by Teve Martin rung no bells at all. Yes, I know Teve is not a very ordinary name, but if your surname was dull like Martin you might have an interesting forename (see Neve Campbell). And I’m glad I did.
Shopgirl displays little of the wild and crazy guy that makes someone with a similar name to Teve Martin so annoying. Indeed unlike most books by comedians (or people with similar names) it runs very low on dialogue or observation – aka chunks of schtick. Instead it is a short melancholy meditation on damaged people slowly trying to make sense of their lives. There is a lovely crisp prose style and its hopeful happy ending seems remarkably bold. What is clear about it is that it is a novel. It is not stage ramble or a screeplay in waiting*. And it is mercifully short too – rocking in at a perfect length of 150 pages which emphasises both its economy and slightness. I was able to devour it in one session which felt like luxury. You go Teve Martin.
*Which of course make this a terrible idea, I blame Steve Martin.