No One Belongs Here More Than You
Full disclosure: I’m a longtime fan of and contributor to Miranda July’s collaborative website, Learning To Love You More. Last year’s Me and You and Everyone We Know is a film I regularly dream of making. So despite my anticipation of July’s premiere short story collection and real fascination and appreciation for her work as a writer, filmmaker and performer; I give this anthology a centrist’s recommendation. If you aren’t familiar with July’s media, suffice to say she’s one of the more brilliant working artists of her generation, and this collection wouldn’t be the worst place to get acquainted. I’d just probably recommend a smaller dose of her quirky formula.
One of July’s greatest strengths is her ability to tease out the strangeness of everyday life and the bizarre interactions we take for granted. While in this compendium she certainly includes the usual intense encounters – the return of a once-removed birthmark or tragedy involving the people with whom she is forced to share an apartment patio—most of the stories in No One Belongs Here More Than You are full of awkward sexual interactions or unrequited fantasies. Not bad or even or out of character, I still found myself yearning for more offbeat anecdotes and metaphors than lustful musings. However, what I do cherish are July’s introspective reflections on love: women who cry together in group romance therapy, informal childcare surrogacy, the couple who knew subconsciously they would sacrifice each other in the face of a killer, taking a sewing class to spy on your boss’s mysterious wife. My favorite story, "This Person," also drew to mind a 1999 Dismemberment Plan song, "You Are Invited." Random reference, I know, but the two are so comparable, if you like the story "This Person," you’ll love the song too. Both refer to unrestricted social access and how, ultimately, if given such a gift, many of us would opt out and head home anyway.
It’s important to note that several of these stories were previously published, so if you’ve been following July’s work in periodicals like the New Yorker, Bridge or the Paris Review, you may have seen some of this material before. Best method for intake: borrow this book from a more overzealous, Miranda-loving friend and read it in already awkward social spaces like crowded transportation.