I received this book last week from my godmother, sent through my grandfather—and its bright green cover caught my eye immediately, among the debris of Tootsie Rolls and Planters cans. I asked for this book, based on nothing but a murmur among friends that the author was good, and a fascination with the stark cover, as well as the lyricism of that title. I read No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July as part of last Saturday’s 24-hour-RRReadathon. It was inebriating.
When I decide to read a short story collection straight through, I usually take mental breaks between stories: looking up from the book, taking a deep breath, lighting a cigarette, going on a bathroom break. A sort of mental cleansing, to rid of the mists cast by the previous story, to make way for the next one. July’s stories are particularly difficult to shake off. Long after those breaks, long after the book has been restored on the shelves. But reading July in such an intensified atmosphere as a RRReadathon is akin to taking a shot of tequila every fifteen minutes. (I can go on and on with this drunk-analogy. Anyhoo.)
Her stories are odd, gritty yet whimsical, lyrical but coarse. I stopped trying to describe the book to myself by the fifth story; just go, I told myself, you’re in good hands. How to describe these stories? [I will try, and know that I am bound to fall short.]
Let us begin with the language. I hate that I’m saying this, but—the stories read like poetry. (I hate saying it because it assumes that poetry is in a higher plane than prose. As one who writes fiction, I would like to say Oh bullshit to that.) That is, there’s a—this word again—a lyricism that is completely devoid of self-consciousness. The language carries those lonely (and aren’t the people in these stories lonely in one way or another?) fragments and all those joyful little moments and melds them into a voice that is always distinct in its oddness. With the characters so attuned to their heartaches, and tongue-in-cheek about it, well, wah, gah—I give up. Just read the damn book. Please.
In the story, “Ten True Things,” I found that July helped me verbalize one of the things that was so captivating (and insert other Yay adjectives here) about her stories:
I don’t believe in psychology, which says everything you do is because of yourself. That is so untrue. We are social animals, and everything we do is because of other people, because we love them, or because we don’t.
That’s it, damn it, that’s just it. Anyone who’s ever been in a writing workshop has heard the question, “But why? What’s her motive?” As though the simple act of, say, sending a letter to an unknown soldier in an unknown place was a crime. Formalistically, characters need motivations. There’s a stigma attached to those who simply act, because they felt like it. – All this was going through my head as I read the first stories. But why is she doing that? What for? And the questions gave way to a surrendering, Of course, of course, she has to, why not? Why would a woman give swimming lessons in her kitchen? Why would a father teach his daughter the right finger moves to make a woman come? Why would a couple spend a day as background actors? Why would a woman sleep with her head on the shoulder of a man who has just had an epileptic seizure? Why the hell not, Sasha?
You. Get yourself a copy. It comes in yellow and pink and blue too. Just saying, if you’re not too keen on green. I’d get the yellow one, but that’s neither here nor there. :]