Steve Martin’s literary agility is simplicity. Plain Mirabelle Buttersfield, 28, works as a shop girl at the glove department of a Los Angeles Neiman Marcus. She is, writes Martin, “never the first or second girl chosen.” She’s also depressed.
Jeremy, her putative boyfriend, interrupts sex to discuss amplifier logos (he designs a brand called “Doggone”). Along comes Ray Porter, divorced, wealthy, middle-aged; they have an affair.
Porter casually lifts Mirabelle from diffidence into romance. But passports to happiness are provisional, which makes this luminously sad novella mostly about the meticulous details of doubt and self-consciousness. Quirky Mirabelle is, for a while, another man’s sport — a passive state she doesn’t know well enough to measure.
It’s anti-Hollywood fiction in that the larceny of special effects and happy endings don’t intervene. Martin makes his little story into a slow-burning cigarette, to his credit.