by Miranda July (2007)
The stories collected in No One Belongs Here More Than You present a wholly unique point of view, absolutely nothing I’ve read is quite like it. The author, quirky renaissance woman Miranda July, tends to focus on the kind of people rarely examined in popular fiction. She shows tender empathy for the lonely, the misguided, the disappointed and the hopeful without ever stooping to paint them as “common”; the characters in these stories may be underemployed, retired, or generally just living on the periphery of American society, but July treats them with the kind of respect most writers toss out the window in pursuit of capturing the kind of broad stroked fictional America they think – but don’t actually know – exists.
She also has an unparalleled appreciation for the real strangeness of sex and how we all react and deal with it. If you’ve seen her magnificent film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, you have a sense of her frank approach to the subject of human sexuality which, in nearly all popular books and movies, is cleaned up and purified or made into something equally unrealistic and elicit.
The stories are funny and sometimes heartbreaking and remind me of another of my favorite writers, George Saunders, so it’s no surprise he’s a big fan of her work. He says of these stories, “They are (let me coin a phrase) July-esque, which is to say: infused with wonder at the things of the world.”
Don’t let July’s adorableness (evinced below) make you wary of her work, as it inexplicably does (even for me, a genuine fan of her work), there’s real depth and passion here, not just quirky preciousness. This collection will make you wish she wrote more often.