The lighter side of obsessive-compulsive behavior.
What a joy the novella is. It may not be the best deal out there in terms of dollars-per-page, but many authors would give better value if they realized they had only a long story’s worth of material and stuck to it. Martin’s second short fiction (after Shopgirl, 2000) is an impressively economical and yet by no means limited piece of light comedy. Although Daniel Cambridge doesn’t have a job, he keeps himself pretty busy. See, Daniel is chock-full of obsessive little tics that would drive the ordinary person insane. For instance, the combined wattage of all the lights turned on his Santa Monica apartment at any one time must be 1125, and he often leaves his apartment (not stepping off curbs) for the sole purpose of satisfying his need to touch the corner of every copying machine at Kinko’s. Daniel also has an elaborate fantasy life involving women he sees passing his window. Fortunately, his grandmother back in Texas sends him money every so often: “She is the one family member who understands that my insanity is benign and that my failure to hold a job is not due to laziness.” As always in stories about a closed-off neurotic of this kind, the world in all its chaotic glory must come crashing into his life in multiple ways, first in Daniel’s sputtering imaginary relationship with a local real-estate lady and then something much more tangible with Clarissa, his social worker. Although Martin succumbs to a banal plot choice later on, when his neurotic goes on a road trip, this is a genuinely funny and surprisingly touching tale. By letting Daniel speak for himself, the author enables the reader to experience his neuroses from the inside and to witness them as the strangely reassuring, though assuredly life-limiting, rituals that they are.
As compassionate as it is funny, and never overstays its welcome.