September 12, 2007

No One Belongs Here More Than You

Print More

As someone who just switched majors from English to psychology, I now depend on my friends to suggest good, occassionally even great, books to read. Not to say that dead white Russian authors aren’t my cup of tea, because they are, but like I said, I just switched majors and I’m trading in my cup of tea for a grande dulce de leche latte (hold the whipped crème please).
So like many other books this summer, Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More than You came as a suggestion from a friend who couldn’t remember anything about it save that the book is clothed in a yellow jacket with typewriter printing on the left side. Surprisingly, the bookstore was able to locate my book despite my sparse description. From this debut collection of sixteen short stories, nine have previously seen the light of day by way of various well known publications including as The Paris Review, The New Yorker, Zoetrope, and Bridge. These nine tales make up the meat of the collection, with shorter vignettes that sometimes lack the developed ideas, plots, and characters seen in the longer tales.
Miranda July takes the obscenely awkward scenarios of life, exacerbates them, and then presents them in an envelope of normalcy. As I read, a father taught his daughter “finger moves” which will one day make some woman “very, very happy,” a secretary fell in love with her boss’s wife, a little girl from a broken house grows up to love the family psychiatrist, and a swimmer used her experience to teach an eldery couple how to swim with nothing more than a bucket of warm water and a bed that morphed into a diving board when it came time for cannonballs. Many times I was surprised at how uncomfortable I was; I can not say if it was the subject matter or the presentation which made me feel out of place.
Miranda July sucks the reader into the often mundane, inconsequential lives of strangers and then, she simply stops. A new life with new people and experiences will then comprise the next story and again, the reader begins anew. I was never happy to see a story end but a wave of liberation would sweep over me at each resolution. It has been a long time since I’ve come across a work so personal and so honest. The shorter stories were the ones I loved most because each one felt like a smaller part of a bigger whole. Though the story was told through different characters, each story felt like a separate and different meeting with the same person, Miranda July. Now, I am off to loan the book to the friend who suggested it in the first place and I can’t help but envy what she will soon discover for the first time. Maybe we’ll meet over that dulce de leche latte I mentioned earlier?