The Pleasure of My Company - Steve Martin
Published: October 2003
First Read: December 2003
Second Read: March 2005
Capsule: Daniel Pecan Cambridge makes Jack Nicholson's character in As Good As It Gets look like an outgoing casanova. Martin's trademark intellectual goofiness is here in spades; also present are hope and a bucket of heartwarming truth.
Hardback: 144 pages
Steve Martin is quietly producing some of the best fiction of the last twenty years. Where he started with the subtle character study Shopgirl, he continues in The Pleasure of My Company.
Daniel Pecan Cambridge is, to use medical jargon, a nutjob. He's trapped himself in a complex web of idiosyncrasies, combining the best bits from any number of nervous disorders. For example, the wattage of light bulbs on in his apartment must be equal at all times; to turn off a 100W bulb in his bedroom, he needs to strategically seek out ons and offs in other rooms to balance the apartment total. As an excuse to avoid excessive forays out of the apartment, he is deathly afraid of stepping off curbs; he needs coolly discerned plans before exiting his front door, lest he be caught without a driveway or wheelchair ramp to leave the block.
Daniel is old school Martin: on the surface, goofy for the sake of goofiness, but upon inspection so much more. After years of calculating and calibrating his own entrapment, both the love of a girl and his grandmother's death force him to confront his myriad fears. Martin's treatment of Daniel's internal struggle is equal parts mock epic and celebration of the victory of everyman.
Throughout Martin's career, I've gotten the feeling that he hasn't really wanted to be the centre of attention, that he just happened to end up in the spotlight, so he shrugged his shoulders and did what came naturally. Daniel Pecan Cambridge is an inventive incarnation of Steve Martin, the private citizen, who, even in the face of mortality, has nothing to fear but fear itself.