by Miranda July
This book is what happened as a result of July’s struggling to finish the screenplay for what would become her second movie, The Future. Of the screenplay, she tells us:
Again and again it was respectfully suggested to me that I cut Paw-Paw’s monologue. But I couldn’t kill him twice, and I thought his voice might be the distressing, ridiculous, problematic soul of what I was trying to make. Not that my conviction protected me; it’s always embarrassing to pin a tail onto thin air, nowhere near the donkey It might be wrong, it sure looks like it is — but then again, maybe the donkey’s in the wrong place, or there are two donkeys, and the tail just got there first.
I suspect July is the kind of artist you either really like, or she bugs the shit out of you. Reasons she may bug you: she seems to get away with doing whatever she wants; she does more than one kind of thing (writing, directing, creating art installations); she creates characters who could use a good proverbial smack upside the head at times; she might be considered twee; the Paw-Paw mentioned above is a cat.
I like her. I loved her short story collection No one belongs here more than you. This book, while all about stories, isn’t fiction. July is telling the story of being stuck in one creative pursuit and what emerges are many other stories, often of people being somehow stuck in their lives.
She and her assistant and a photographer go meet people who are selling things in the PennySaver: these are the stories she hears as a result. The PennySaver is the poor internet-less person’s Craigslist. Through her, we meet people selling old blowdryers, photo albums, leather jackets, tadpoles. They are sad, strange, funny, a bit repulsive, heartbreaking. July reveals what she is really looking for, by finding them:
All I ever really want to know is how other people are making it through life — where do they put their body, hour by hour, and how do they cope inside of it.
I think this is the reason I like Miranda July. I want to know the same thing.