Sunday, April 1, 2012

Me and You and Every Anxiety We Know

Well I guess I was just hardwired to dig Miranda July's writing. I liked both of her feature films - they weren't quite perfect but each of them was fascinating and hard to look away from. Somehow it seems to work for me even better in literature form, though after reading "Nobody Belongs Here More Than You" I would really like to see what she can do if she stretched out into a longer literary form.

I think what I like most about reading these (other than the fact that I feel like she is my long-time top-of-the-favorite-authors-list Richard Brautigan reincarnated as a modern woman) is that she is essentially delivering a stand-up comedy line in a cerebral context and using it to talk about familiar and serious issues in a way that feels like exploring an alien landscape that immediately becomes familiar as the crest of each rise is crested and each draw traversed. Her comedic timing is fantastic and the steady dose of wry observation and knowing cynicism tempers the fluctuating nostalgia-sentimentality-sincerity flow.

She does also enjoy playing with societal boundaries – nothing too brow-raising but she pulls you along to perspectives you probably don’t consider most days of the week.

For some reason the following line leaped out at me and apparently it grabbed Richard as well (what are the chances of a single line out of an entire collection of short stories making such an impression on multiple readers?), though my focus was more on just this couplet:

"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.

That sums up much about July that I like: The moments that happen alone (or when feeling alone), the real details tweaked to exploit telling, briefly incongruous associations to paint a complex sense-picture with great economy of words, and again, the comedic timing.

She does indeed seem to return repeatedly to scenes where someone is seemingly stuck in time. In fact, this seems to be a primary element in her more recent movie "The Future" where time is being held up for a seeming indefinite arc of story. Perhaps it is some sort of statement about the modern condition but as I encountered these (in one of them she is poised with one foot in the freshly drawn bathwater, the other out, and she ponders just staying frozen like that until the person that just left the house never to come back returns), they resonated with me more viscerally - I've had such moments before and even when I don't indulge them in the end, there are others that I notice as their potential rises and falls in the stream of consciousness flowing by.

Her obsession with behavioral detail is enjoyable to witness, as in The Shared Patio where she's not sure if the landlord explained to the couple downstairs that in fact their patio really was supposed to be a shared patio for her (the persona, and she writes from a variety of these) to use equally, so she marks on the calendar when they use it so she can match them in terms of patio-sitting time and then goes and sits for a while then crosses out the mark now that both parties are commensurate:

"Sometimes I lag behind and have to sit out there a lot toward the end of the month in order to catch up."

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