They say there are two certainties in life: death and taxes. Iíd like to add a third: if Steve Martin wrote it, itís funny -- and The Pleasure of My Company: a novella is funny. The story is simple: Daniel Pecan Cambridge, age thirty-five, observes the world from his apartment window and creates elaborate fantasies about the people he sees and about himself. Daniel is chosen as a finalist in Teppertonís Apple Pie Most Average American essay contest, twice. His mind is fraught with panic at the thought of Teppertonís discovering his fraudulent entry, and at the irony of competing against himself. This is just one of Danielís many mini-adventures. There are also his imagined love for Elizabeth, a realtor; his weekly visits with Clarissa, a psychology intern; and his interaction with his neighbors, all of which are detailed in his amusing internal monologues. Shades of Walter Mitty.
Martin, the cerebral court jester, gleefully juggles and twists both words and the thoughts that make Daniel vibrate with life. I can hear Martinís droll voice in my head as I read Danielís inner most thoughts. I can visualize Martinís physical comedy in Danielís paralyzing encounter with his nemesis: a street curb. I laugh out loud when Daniel convinces himself that he can safely drive from California to Texas only if he avoids using words with the letter e. Martin manages to carry it off for several pages -- no mean feat. You try it!
Last year I reviewed Mark Haddonís The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night Time, and Daniel reminds me of its teenaged protagonist, Christopher Boone. Did Christopher Boone grow up, move to Santa Monica and change his name to Daniel Pecan Cambridge?
Like Christopher, Daniel has quirky coping skills -- his apartment lightbulbs' combined wattage must not exceed 1125 watts. Daniel structures his daily activities; one day is devoted to touching every corner of every photocopier at Kinkoís. This prompted me to question my adoration for this charming story. Did I enjoy Martinís story because I enjoyed Haddonís? Was it the memory of Christopher that made me eagerly welcome Daniel into my heart? The answer to those questions is ďno.Ē Daniel Pecan Cambridge, without a doubt, I enjoyed the pleasure of your company.