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The Pleasure of My Company

by Steve Martin

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The Pleasure of My Company Steve Martin
Steve Martin is a wild and crazy guy, known more commonly these days as an actor rather than as a writer. However, over the past few years, Martin's writing career has been extensive.

He began writing in the mid-1960s, with a series of comedic essays that later became the collection Cruel Shoes. He wrote for his comedy act and Grammy-award winning comedy albums in the 1960s and 70s, when he also started co-writing for the screen (The Jerk, Dead Men Don't Wear Plaid).

Since then, he's gone solo on his screenplays and has expanded into print, writing sporadically for the New Yorker and the New York Times. In 2000, his first novella, Shopgirl, became a bestseller. His second, The Pleasure of My Company, released in October 2003, tells the story of 33-year-old obsessive compulsive genius, Daniel Pecan Cambridge.

Daniel Cambridge orders his life with a strict system of rules designed to stave off the threat of mental chaos. He neurotically requires that the lit bulbs in his Santa Monica apartment maintain an aggregate wattage of 1125; he is sometimes compelled to touch every copying machine at a nearby Kinko's; and his personal notions of spatial logic force him into such bizarrely circuitous walking routes as to render shopping anywhere other than his nearby Rite-Aid an impossibility.
With $600 in the bank and the rent paid through next month, Cambridge sees no reason to seek work and spends the bulk of his time planning his introduction to Elizabeth the Realtor, on whom he has been spying from his apartment window. Infact, in addition to his innumerable neuroses, Cambridge is chiefly obsessed with the few women who casually cross his insular world on a regular basis. He elaborately constructs his eventual meeting with Elizabeth:

"I don't know if I want to approach Elizabeth the Realtor until the Mensa thing is worked out. My membership would be nice to drop over drinks on our third date. If I get the feeling there might not be a third date, I have no qualms about moving it up to our second date, or even blurting it out on our first date right after 'hello.'"
Because Cambridge is a house-bound anti-hero, The Pleasure of My Company is denied any sort of action-rich plot. Instead, Martin delivers Cambridge's mundane misadventures in meticulous detail, simultaneously evoking laughter and a sort of cringing empathy. A trip to Rite-Aid, a latte at a sidewalk cafe, even a simple jog around the block with Brian, Cambridge's only male companion, become heroic undertakings:

"There before me was the curb, coming up on Brian and hence me. This time, though, I felt my pace slowing but oddly not my sense of elation. I saw Brian leap over the curve in a perfect arc. Oh yes, this made sense to me. The arc bridged this mini-hurdle. If I could arc, I could fly over it, too. The curb could be vanquished with one soaring leap."
By assigning the obsessive-compulsive Cambridge the role of narrator, Martin plunks the reader squarely into his world of poignantly humorous observations, which are quickly recognizable as the foundation upon which Martin launched his comedy career. And although Cambridge's social interactions are peppered with constant untruths, his narration is carried out with a candid innocence that quickly wins the reader's affections. So we root for Daniel Cambridge, against obstacles real and imagined, and we have a lot of laughs along the way.
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