Tung's Reviews > No One Belongs Here More Than You

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July
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Jan 09, 2008

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bookshelves: short-stories
Read in May, 2008

Miranda July is your typical all-around artistse – accomplished filmmaker, performance artist, and writer. This collection of short stories (in almost everyone’s Top Ten list for 2007) is her first published book, although half the stories in here were previously published in elite literary mags like The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Zoetrope. She is the epitome of contemporary pop fiction, to me the generation of young writers who grew up with the minimalist fiction of Raymond Carver. (It’s no surprise, then, that Dave Eggers, George Saunders, and Amy Hempel wrote three of book jacket quotes for this book.) And there is much to like in July’s prose – it’s filled with creative metaphors (for instance, she compares an attractive person with a glaring fault to “the optical illusion of a vase made out of the silhouette of two people kissing. Now it is a vase . . . now it could only be two people kissing . . . oh, but it is so completely a vase.”), and it’s filled with cleverly crafted insights (for example, she notes that “People tend to stick to their own size group because it’s easier on the neck. Unless they are romantically involved, in which case the size difference is sexy. It means: I am willing to go the distance for you.”). And like a Saunders or a TC Boyle, the characters in July’s stories are all quirky (like the attractive lady who has an eye-catching birthmark removed who then mourns its loss) and the situations they find themselves are just as quirky (like a young girl who decides to teach a group of elderly people how to swim, only there is no pool or body of water in the town they reside in, so she fills large bowls of water in her house and has the old people place their faces into the bowls and scoot along the floor). But some of July’s stories also share my one gripe with contemporary pop fiction writers: many of their stories lack real depth. The stories strive for profundity, and hint at profundity, but the emotions they’re trying to convey seem more like creative writing exercises (making the everyday seem more than that) rather than descriptions of real feelings borne out of real experiences. For example, the story “It Was Romance” describes two women who attend a seminar on romance and when they return from a break, one of them sees the other crying and they hold each other and cry with each other, and they experience real romance. Sorry, that’s more artsiness than depth. Another minor gripe I have with July (and the other writers like her) is that all of the stories are about melancholy and loneliness. Artsy people need to lighten up. Overall, though, only a few of the stories were like this, and there’s enough quality minimalist prose in here that compensates for the artsiness. A recommended read. [For those interested, my favorite three stories were “Something That Needs Nothing”, “This Person”, and “The Shared Patio”. My least favorite were “Birthmark”, “Majesty”, and “It Was Romance”.]
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