by Miranda July
I’ll admit to not having heard of Miranda July until I came across her fabulously clever lo-fi book promo website. (She directed Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won prizes at Sundance and Cannes. What can I say? I read more books than I watch movies.) Based on that website — it made me laugh, and convinced me that July was odd in a good way — I went out and bought the book.
I was not disappointed. July’s characters are odd, aching, questioning, at least slightly mad, and driven by emotions they either can’t understand or understand all too well. In the sixteen stories in this collection, you’ll meet a swim coach who trained people without a pool, a man who really doesn’t have a sister, a woman who had a birthmark removed, and a completely fictional Madeleine L’Engle, among others. They are all terrifically human.
More often than not, the title of a book of short stories is taken from one of the stories. I scanned the list of titles expecting to see it, but didn’t. That was only one of the small surprises. Possibly the best part of this book is the way July writes characters without filters in their heads — so they think things that are unexpected, uncomfortable, wrong. These aren’t necessarily big things, and they aren’t usually things that are really wrong, it is just they are things we are all taught not to do, not to say, not even to think, quietly, to ourselves, because you just don’t. These are the things that move her characters beyond the realm of quirky and into the land of blood and guts and breathing weird but real.
The other potential best part of the book is the title. No one belongs here more than you — but that doesn’t actually say you belong, does it? If there is one thing her characters really have nailed, it is that secret fear of not belonging that so many people have.
If any of this sounds interesting to you, or if her website makes you laugh, or you are impressed that George Saunders blurbed her, you’ll probably like the book. Highly recommended.