I’m calling this post “Miranda July, Part 1” because I want to promise (to myself, anyway) that I’ll continue to think about the writer-filmmaker-performing artist in the weeks to come. I finished July’s story collection, No one belongs here more than you., about an hour ago; it feels, at the moment, like the best thing I’ve ever read. (I’ve had this feeling many times in my life. It’s one of the great secret pleasures of reading.) The book was published in a bygone era (2007) and yet somehow I didn’t pick it up until yesterday. A student recommended it. (Receiving an on-the-mark book recommendation is one of the great secret pleasures of teaching.) It’s going on my fall fiction syllabus, posthaste.
The narrators of July’s stories are male and female, young and old, gay and straight. They’re funny and surprising, broken and brilliant. Sometimes (maybe) they’re dead. In “The Man on the Stairs,” the narrator waits in bed as a stranger (maybe) slowly climbs the stairs. (“The man on the stairs pauses for such incredibly long periods of time, I almost wonder if he is having a problem. Like maybe he’s disabled or very old. Or maybe just really tired. Maybe he’s already killed everyone else on the block and now he’s all worn out.”) Like much of the collection, the story toggles between laughter and dread—explicitly so, in the final paragraph. Thinking back on a boyfriend’s “ridiculous jokes,” the narrator says: “I steeled myself against laughter; I would rather die than laugh. I didn’t laugh, I did not laugh. But I died, I did die.”
In another story, an eight-year-old plays life coach to a forty-year-old who’s coming out of a relationship:
Maybe you didn’t French-kiss him enough.
I promise you that wasn’t it.
Tell me how many times a day you kissed, and I’ll say if it was enough.
I don’t have enough words of praise for this collection, but I’ll find more, later this month. In the meantime (an ever-ambiguous compound that, I’m guessing, July would appreciate), it’s July 10! Clerihew Day! I’ve written about clerihews on July 10ths past (in 2010 and 2013); if the form isn’t familiar, those links should provide plenty of explanation and examples. The clerihew is my favorite art-box; Clerihew Day may be my favorite holiday. Let the four-line celebrations start.
If Miranda July
tells a lie,
she can pass it off as creative whimsy, a dream
within a dream. That works less well with my court-ordered rehab team.