No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July
Publisher: Scribner. March 2008
Genre: Literary fiction, short stories
First Line: It still counts, even though it happened when he was unconscious.
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Miranda July's short stories are beautiful and startling. I had only read one of her stories, Shared Patio, which is the first story in the book, and I didn't like it quite as much as I thought I should. All of the other stories I adored, though. Most of them involve love or relationships in some sense, but often in surprising ways. There are characters in love with best friends, characters who try to seduce those who are too young, concerning sibling relationships, surprise homosexuality, imaginary relationships, and more.
What's most exciting about these stories isn't their quirky content, though. It's how personal and small most of these instances are. Many of the stories are incredibly small, both in length and in the moment being recorded/created. You see private, sometimes what one would expect to be mundane, instances. And they turn incredibly beautiful when you allow yourself to look at these often unseen moments.
Miranda July's style is clean and crisp, making this book of short stories a quick read. If you're annoyed by a trendy lack of quotation marks, be warned, you will find no ""s here. Most of the stories feel like a stream of consciousness, but I recall at least one story being more detached from the main character. I often would stop reading to turn to a friend and read parts and whole stories aloud. It's absolutely a book that I'm going to want to buy and revisit.
For a more specific review, and to be used as a taster, here's a very very short story from the collection called This Person. This story really got to me. Despite its length, it gets a very emotional response from me, which always impresses me with short stories. The ending is sort of painful, because I think July catches a very human behavior of withdrawing from others. It's hard to see it happen, because it's easy to recognize this behavior in ourselves. We want the main character to be better than ourselves. Any short story that moves me and leads me to do some amount of self reflection is good in my book.
"It's not agoraphobia, because I am not actually afraid of leaving the house. The fear hits about twenty-seven steps away from the house, right around the juniper bush. I have studied it and determined that it is not a real bush, and I have reversed this theory, and I have done everything I can not to turn around and go home, even if it means standing there forever." - The Boy from Lam Kien
"We don't know anything. We don't know how to cure a cold or what dogs are thinking. We do terrible things, we make wars, we kill people out of greed. So who are we to say how to love. I wouldn't force her. I wouldn't have to. She would want me. We would be in love. What do you know. You don't know anything. Call me when you've cured AIDS, give me a ring then and I'll listen." - The Sister
Outlandishness Rating: 7.5/10
The atypical sexual relationships and peculiar logic held by the characters get this collection of stories a 7. The story about teaching people to swim without a pool, alone, gives it an extra half a point. Pretty weird, but not the weirdest.
Anybody who likes strange little contemporary stories. They're quirky and unabashedly personal. Highly recommended.