Miranda July: No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories

The website for "No One Belongs Here More Than You"

Do you have doubts about life? Are you unsure if it is really worth the trouble? Look at the sky: that is for you. Look at each person’s face as you pass them on the street: those faces are for you. And the street itself, and the ground under the street, and the ball of fire underneath the ground: all these things are for you. They are as much for you as they are for other people. Remember this when you wake up in the morning and think you have nothing. Stand up and face the east. Now praise the sky and praise the light within each person under the sky. It’s okay to be unsure. But praise, praise, praise.

Hello, I am Zin! I read a story from this collection (“Swim Team”) for my Second Person Study, and I went ahead and read the rest of the stories little by little. It is a wonderful book! Wonderful stories! She also has an adorable website (shown above) – it is written on her stove! She started out writing on her refrigerator but it was too hard to keep erasing.

It reads at times like the writings of an angst-ridden teenager. I do not mean to be snooty, I love that! But it is surprising that it is acceptable to do that! Many of the stories also have a lot of serious digressions! Now, no one loves digressions more than me, but do you know how bad you get smacked down for digressions? And somehow Miranda July can do them and win prizes – big prizes, like the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award, and it was named one of the top ten fiction books of 2007 by Time (it is strange they would name a story collection, when publishers everywhere insist that people do not read short stories, only novels).

I am very jealous! These are stories I should have written! And awed! Just about every story made me cry. It was very awkward, reading them on the bus to the supermarket or while waiting for a bus or an appointment because I would start crying, but also very beautiful.

This is the book I want to write! Well, no, not this book of course, since Miranda July already wrote it. But a book like this, with stories like these. Simple, straightforward, but intensely feeling, heartbreaking, stories where you love the protagonist, really love her! And by extension the writer.

I have never been someone who says, I like this author or that. I like books, and stories, and sometimes they are by the same author, but if I like 50% of the stories in a collection, that is really good! But I think I am a Miranda July fan! I think I loved maybe all of these stories, at least came very close.

Describing these stories does not do them justice. Every sentence, every element, is necessary, so you will just have to read them! The book itself is so perfectly simple – no cover art, just a bright cover (mine is yellow, I understand some are red) with non-serif lettering, a small blurb and pic on the back. No splashy banners about the prizes won. No intriguing art. Just a book. It is a perfect work of art, exactly as it is (of course which cover you get depends on which edition, and that can vary). And because it was published back in 2007, you can probably find a used copy for about $7.

Some of the stories are online, so you can try them out before you risk your $7:

This Person” for example. If you are at work, be forewarned: it will make you cry. It was published in Bridge in 2003.

The Shared Patio” is available in the Zoetrope: All Story archives (it was published there in 2005). It is the story the opening quote above is from. But that quote is not at all in the style of the story. It is one of those stories that can not possibly work: what do people who share a patio, who work at a printer and a magazine printed by the printer, one of whom has an epileptic seizure while the other falls asleep and dreams they are having an affair, only to be awakened by an alarmed wife and discovering a wonderful display of intimacy – not the sexual kind, the real kind – on the refrigerator – what can these things do to work? It can not possibly work! And yet it does! Oh, go ahead, read it, it is not very long! None of these are very long, and most are quite short.

If you read my comments on “The Swim Team” you might find a surprise hidden there. It is an incredible story. Only a small part of it is in second person. Most of it is about a woman who teaches old people to swim in her living room. Please go see! Just click on the very tiny link, it is easy, it will be worth it, I promise!

The Man on the Stairs” is online in the Fence archives where it was published in 2004. How did I miss all these wonderful stories? What was I reading in 2004? Oh, 2004, that was not really a reading year for me.

The other stories in the book (those I can not find online) are well worth your $7. “Ten True Things,” for example, which tells the story of a secretary who takes a sewing class to meet the wife of her sleazeball boss. “Something That Needs Nothing” (which was published in Bridge and in The New Yorker tells of the relationship between two girls, how it stretches and breaks and reforms. “I Kiss A Door” which is about how you do not really know what anyone is going through, and the coolest person around might be in agony every day of her life. And “Majesty” which combines a girl planning to meet Prince William, a lost dog, and sex. Again, an impossible story, but it is not only possible, it is wonderful! Other stories in this book were published in McSweeney’s, The Paris Review, Harvard Review, and Tin House. This is not teenage angst literature.

I see she has a new book coming out in November, It Chooses You. It is not fiction, but is the story of how she made her current movie, The Future, including tracking down and interviewing thirteen people with for-sale ads in Pennysaver.

Miranda July is someone I could easily find annoyingly quirky, kind of like the old Goldie Hawn character on Laugh-In or the Zoey Deschanel character in the TV series “The New Girl” which debuted a few weeks ago (the promos tempted me, but I could only tolerate half of one episode). I mean, look at the whole refrigerator/stove website thing. She has a lot of cool people around her and she does a lot of cool things. I do not do cool things, and cool people run when they see me coming. But, somehow, her stories touch me. That goes a long way. In fact, it’s the only thing that matters.

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