Friday, March 23, 2012

Richard Offers 5 Observations on Miranda July's No One Belongs Here More Than You

[contains spoilers, but it's no big deal, since nothing much happens in most contemporary short stories anyway]

1) I was immediately intrigued with the first story's incorporation of very funny New Age-speak ("These days people are too angry for stabbing. What you might try is punching."). It's a little like George Saunders...except NO ONE does this better than George Saunders. But my hopes for these interesting stylistic touches fizzled pretty quickly. Most of the stories are fairly traditional.

2) For me, the longer stories are easily the best. With some of these, she comes close to developing actual three-dimensional characters, whereas the shorter pieces just feel like an extension of what many of us might imagine July herself to sound like (these shorter stories tend to blur together for me, with all the voices seeming like the same character). I liked "The Sister," which tries on a male POV as our older narrator falls head-over-heels for the imaginary sister of his older friend (a bit like the imagined realities that take flight around the young boy's chatroom messages in July's film Me and You and Everyone We Know). And I dug "Something That Needs Nothing" in which Pip joins a peep show (any story that contains references to Paris, Texas and Harry Dean Stanton is aces in my book).

3) There's an interesting recurring image in this collection of characters frozen in moments (often mundane actions) who believe that their next movement will alter the course of their existence. Look at Pip at the end of "Something That Needs Nothing": "If no customers came in, I would yell the word 'Quit.'" Or the narrator near the end of "Ten True Things": "I was still holding the dust cloth, and I knew that if I could let it fall, I would be able to move again." Or the narrator of "Making Love in 2003" staring at the tree-trimmer outside: "If he saw me, I would live." So what do we make of this? Some statement on the paralysis of the modern condition, no doubt? (make links to Beckett's Waiting for Godot...).

4) As Abby's post points out, July is very good at capturing the awkwardness of life and the loneliness and difficulty of relationships. Look at this passage from "It Was Romance": "I got up and stood alone in the hallway and pressed my face to the wall. It was wood-paneled and smelled like pee, as so many things do. Romance. My apartment. Romance. My Honda. Romance. My skin condition. Romance. My job." It's a funny juxtaposition of how "reality" brushes up against the necessary illusions of "romance." But, based on this collection, I remain a bit unclear on what sets her apart from any number of other contemporary short story writers who are mining this same vein? I'll await your answers at the Tap on April 9.

5) I wrote this whole piece up to now without using the word "twee."

1 comment:

  1. I'll probably discuss #3 some when I get around to a post. I was very struck by that. And it really is the primary feature of her more recent movie "The Future", at least in my eyes, with time literally being stopped for a long time.

    Ha, and I was also taken with the wood-paneling and pee line - really jumps out for some reason.

    And yes, early on I realized I was yearning to see what she could do with a longer work than a short story. I'm not done yet but I'm pretty much digging it.