Editor’s Note: Roy E. Perry reviewed books for ”The Tennessean” and ”Nashville Banner” for more than thirty years. ”Underground Nashville” is always proud to post Mr. Perry’s latest book review.
If you think Columbo (the TV detective) had an extreme case of OCD, you should get a load of Daniel Pecan Cambridge, protagonist of (the) Steve Martin’s novel, The Pleasure of My Company. If Columbo has a “full house” of Obsessive Compulsive Disorder, Daniel holds a “royal flush.”
An endearingly edgy neurotic, Daniel has peculiarities and quirks sufficient for a dozen people. He suffers from bouts of anxiety, is haunted with “curb fear” (crossing an eight-inch curb causes a panic attack), is afflicted with agoraphobia, and struggles with paranoia. Daniel speaks of his “demanding sense of order”; he values coherence, symmetry, and serenity. Lonely and searching for love, he lives in a fantasy world, rarely leaving his Santa Monica apartment, except on a perilous, circuitous trek to the Rite Aid Pharmacy for groceries. He buys earplugs simply because they’re on sale, and there’s always the horrible chance he might see a gas station attendant wearing a blue hat.
Our hero is far from being a dummy. One of his favorite pastimes is composing complicated magic squares (mathematical challenges that also fascinated Benjamin Franklin and Albrecht Durer). In no way do Daniel’s psychoneurotic idiosyncracies undermine his intelligence. Daniel laments a “clerical error” at Mensa: “I’d taken their IQ test, but my score came back missing a digit. Where was that 1 that should have been in front of the 90?”
Other than hilarious descriptions of Daniel’s neuroses, the heart of this tale involves Daniel’s infatuation with three women: Elizabeth Warner, an experienced realtor; Clarissa, a student shrink-in-training who has problems of her own; and Zandy, a cute clerk at the Rite Aid Pharmacy.
Daniel’s wealthy grandmother, who owns a huge pecan grove in Helmut, Texas (hence Daniel’s middle name), mails him generous checks, his only financial support. When Granny dies, Daniel and one of his three love interests travel to Texas to visit the deceased’s grave. To assuage his anxieties over hazarding such a long trip, Daniel determines that every word and sentence he utters en route will be sans the letter “e.”
Discouraged in his quest for mutual affection, Daniel muses, “There are few takers for the quiet heart.” But (and without revealing a spoiler) the novel ends happily. Perhaps there are still takers for the quiet heart!
Daniel’s first-person narrative is both funny and sad; we pull for him that he may have a breakthrough and relate to reality in a more positive, confident fashion. In The Pleasure of My Company, Steve Martin paints a sympathetic and sensitive portrait of a person struggling to break free of the chains that bind him. Mr. Martin has given us another enjoyable story—a worthy follow-up to Shopgirl.
For other book reviews by Roy E. Perry, please visit: http://www.amazon.com/gp/cdp/member-reviews/A2MVUWT453QH61/ref=cm_cr_auth/002-6294896-4602409?%5Fencoding=UTF8
David M. (Dave) Carew is writer/editor of ”Underground Nashville” and the author of the novels ”Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville” and ”Voice from the Gutter,” both now available at Amazon.com and XLibris.com. Dave is also a freelance book editor, publicist, seminar and workshop leader, journalist, and advertising/marketing/public relations writer.
Everything Means Nothing to Me: A Novel of Underground Nashville by Dave Carew—which was praised by The Tennessean as “beautiful, haunting, powerful”—is now available in an all-new paperback edition. For more information, please visit:
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Editor’s Note:”Underground Nashville” covers artists, authors, musicians, poets, political figures, and other compelling people and happenings not typically covered by the mainstream Nashville media. It also presents reflections and commentary from an underground/indie perspective, offering thoughts from the shadows of a great American city. Dave Carew