Story Title: Drivel
Originally published: 1997
Collected In: Drivel
Brief Story Description: Rod, the story’s narrator, is the publisher of The American Drivel Review. Normally he only publishes it, but after meeting Dolly at a party he is inspired to start writing it himself. Dolly herself is a painter of paintings, ones designed to be ‘viewed’ by a ‘viewer’ in a ‘museum.’ The two enjoy their irony drenched relationship. The narrator makes sure his pieces of writing get rejected by at least 5 magazines before he publishes them in his own publication. Unfortunately the day comes when the narrator goes to see Dolly’s new picture and likes it unironically. There are no quotations marks at all about his ‘enjoyment’ of it. As Dolly says, ‘But Rod, if you view my work without irony, it’s terrible.’ But Rod is only able to enjoy it. Thus they tearfully part, unable to go on together.
Why it works humour wise: Steve Martin likes to laugh at modern trends. People do crazy things for the sake of trends. Martin likes to show them up for how ridiculous they are. He also enjoys the powers of words, in this example, really examining what ‘drivel’ is. It is almost postmodern in his examination of words and extrapolating them to their [il]logical conclusion.
Like Woody Allen previously, Martin is a comedian who crosses into the literary world. It is hard to find pure writers of comedic fiction such as P.G. Wodehouse anymore. It seems everyone must have a day job, be it stand-up, or be it radio, such as Garrison Keilor. Perhaps there are not many outlets to support pure comedic short stories, and the writers have to derive their main source of income elsewhere. Fiction seems almost a quest for legitimacy for Steve Martin, as though his capering in films like The Jerk needs a body of literature to balance it out. Or maybe he just likes to express himself.