Secrets of Retail by J.W. Martin is a pretty funny book, much of the time. The narrator/protagonist works as a floor supervisor in a sort of Best Buy – a big box technology store – and is an irreverent bastard. For me there’s a feeling of deja vu since I wrote a somewhat similar novel some thirty years ago, when I was also working as a manager in retail (albeit in a bookstore). Both books are filled with behind the scenes customer ridicule and samples of obnoxious/stupid/annoying retail behaviors from both sides of the counter. Martin’s book is generously endowed with obscenities, and no one is spared. That’s all fun and games.
At the same time, this is one of those books written by (or at least about) a man who seems to feel it’s his manly duty to try and have sex with every single female he encounters. Nary a woman occurs in this book that isn’t immediately sized up and preyed upon. We are six days into the narrative and he has already slept with four and tried to sleep with several others. I say “we” because I’m reading it out loud to my son, except for all the sex parts, which I skip over, saving us a hell of a lot of time in the reading! It’s not that the sex parts are even explicit, they’re just boring. “We had sex for hours”. Really? “We had sex in every position”. Even hanging upside down like bats from the rafters attached only by the ankles by means of Spiderman-strength copper-colored webs? Nope, none of that, just non-stop youthful horniness (and a cringe-inducing “black friend” who always has three or four ladies at the same time. Yikes).
In my book (“Cashier World” – the novel, not the collection of short stories I later put out under the same title), the cashier is married to a psychic – a genuine gypsy psychic who can indeed tell the future and knows very well that her husband will never amount to anything, and neither will she. She hates being a psychic and is utterly depressed. Everyone who comes in to get their fortune told makes her sick. In the meantime, there’s nothing he can tell her about his lousy day at work that she hasn’t already foreseen and the triviality of it all drives her towards a seemingly inevitable suicide, except for the fact that she knows that’s not how she dies in the end. It was a book that careened between farce and pathos. It was also a pretty lousy book.
“Secrets of Retail”, on the other hand, alternates between ridiculing modern American consumer behavior and frat boy snickering sex drivel, but the funny parts really are, so we’re sticking with it, and skipping all the crap in between