I like to think that Miranda July and I are similar people. For one thing, our hair is the same. Also, we’re both awkward, whimsical people who spend a lot of time (too much time?) in our own heads, although I’d say she’s probably got me beat in the awkward and whimsical departments. I guess what I’m saying here is that regardless of whether or not July is “twee,” or even regardless of whether “twee” is or is not a bad thing; I’m pre-disposed to like July’s work, because I feel like we are coming from similar places.
I found that the best stories in “No One Belongs Here More than You” are stories that seem to reflect July’s own personality and weird sense of humor, and that also reflect the way she sees herself. My favorite piece in this collection is “Majesty,” about a character who becomes obsessed with Prince William after he appears to her in a dream. I think this story in particular distills what I like about July better than any of the other stories in the book. For example, this passage:
“His sons will all be beautiful and strapping royalty, and my daughters will all be middle-aged women working for a local nonprofit and spearheading their neighborhood earthquake-preparedness groups. We come from long lines of people destined never to meet.”
It’s one of those lines that seems so instantly true and funny and a little sad that it makes you laugh out loud. Also, I think it made me laugh because I automatically identified. Not only will my children probably work for a local nonprofit, I will probably end up working for a local nonprofit. That is me.
But as much as I like July, I find that “No One Belongs Here More than You” contains both the good and the bad aspects of her art, the stuff that makes people really dislike her as well as what makes her so unique. “Mon Plaisir,” for example, had me rolling my eyes in disgust. I realize (or rather I hope) it’s satire, since the couple in the story are so ridiculously self-involved and sentimental and new-agey, but I can only take so many serious discussions about yoga and Buddhist mediation before I find myself skipping pages. I think that serious treatment of trivial, whiny stuff is why some people don’t find themselves connecting with July’s films. I think it all depends on what you view as whiny or trivial. One person’s goldfish on a car roof is another’s complaints about tai chi instructors, I guess.
Overall, I really enjoyed this short story collection, and am glad we read it. I’m looking forward to hearing what you all thought!