When I brought home this bright yellow book, I thought, man, I don’t read enough short stories. Now that I’ve finished it, I know I was right. Both amusing and surprising, Miranda July’s No One Belongs Here More Than You makes a good case for reading short fiction.
This debut collection from July (The First Bad Man, It Chooses You) is an exploration of unfulfilled dreams and desires. An inquiry into identity. She writes about people in very specific moments and circumstances. A teenager running away from home. A wife who gets a haircut and decides, “This is the first day of the rest of my life.” A woman who can’t seem to walk past the shrub on the corner.
Each is faced with choices and throbbing emotions. Each is confronted with both the Familiar and the Other. And while the places, voices, and names shift from story to story, in each there is July’s poignant touch.
July’s stories show people desperately trying to make it, trying to find love. There is the underlying question – in examining myself, what do I truly want? Can I keep a firm grip on comfort and familiarity, and still find adventure?
It’s easy to feel incorporeal and displaced in these situations and crises. But July’s characters have to reach out, grasp their realities, and deal with them. They say “yes” (or “no”). They share a glance, accept a dawning revelation.
Their loose ends aren’t tied up, and they certainly don’t have any more answers. But they are present. There are right here, right now, come what may. And reading their stories allowed me to be there with them. Their rambling monologues captured the vibrations of my own inner thoughts, absurd and trivial as they so often are.
I guess it’s in this way that the title connects to the collection of tales. Be here, with us, sharing this moment. Why not you? You belong in this ridiculous world just as much as the rest of us!
Miranda July knows how to turn a phrase and punch a sentence so that you either swell or deflate. Her writing style is funny, and the stories are crisply and intentionally written with no wasted words. I laughed out loud, winced, and felt stabs of longing.
Whether it’s the frank, decidedly un-erotic sexual encounters, the bizarre friendships, or the unexpected connections, No One Belongs Here More Than You is a well-crafted collection of fiction for a thoughtful, modern reader. It is a praiseworthy fiction debut for July and one that foreshadows a strong writing career. She proves she’s an author filled with humour and empathy, an author worthy of her characters and scenes.
I closed the book not remembering any one character’s name, but I remembered their voices, their regrets. I remember how reading that last page made me feel – the faces, the sorrows, the quirks, and that gentle exhale of finality after reading the last line.