Friday, April 27, 2012

For the Quiet Heart

It's been about a year since I finished Steve Martin's second novella, The Pleasure of My Company. I'd not read Shopgirl (or seen the movie on which it was based). But, I have read a number of Martin's essays, and his particular flavor of humor has always appealed to me.

The story is a first-person narration by Daniel Pecan Cambridge, whose existence is mostly related in the observations he makes from his Santa Monica apartment and the life he leads in its immediate vicinity. Via the force of his imagination, he fabricates relationships with those he observes, though it is apparent the constructs are wholly believed by Daniel.

He partakes in daily rituals and says things like: “But, my conventions, it turned out, could not be broken overnight, because they had been forged in my brain like steel. And nothing so simple as longing could dislodge them."

I must say, I felt a tinge of kinship with the character.

While I don't have the protagonist's savant powers, I do have what amount to attenuated variations on his insecurities and eccentricities -- less obsessing than fretting, less neuroses than psychological hurdle. I could easily see myself in circumstances similar to his: alone in a big city, largely lonely and ensconced in mental elaborations that stave off acceptance of reality, and, in fact, become a stand-in for reality. I could see how my desolate landscape of solitude would occasionally be broken by salient instances of genuine socializing or spontaneous larking.

So, I thank the narrator for acting as my docent to a parallel universe, as my Clarence-The-Angel earning wings by showing me a path of what might have been. And I hope this novella also becomes a movie.

Here's a passage that affected me:

In the deeper hours of the night, I began to
look at myself, to consider myself and my
condition, to measure the life that I'd led so
far. I did not know what made me this way.
I did not know any other way I could be. I
did not know what was inside me or how I
could redeem what was hidden there. There
must be a key, or a person, or a thing, or song,
or poem, or belief, or old saw that could access
it. But, it all seems so far away. And, after I'd
drifted further and further into self-absorption,
I closed the evening with this desolate thought:
there are few takers for the quiet heart.

-- Steve Martin,The Pleasure of My Company

1 comment:

  1. Loved that book! Glad you got around to reading it.