Dear reader, life is too short for crap books.

Sunday, May 27, 2007

"You Think You Deserve That Pain, But You Don't"*

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

The disproportionately talented Miranda July has a flair for creating scenes of cringe-inducing awkwardness between characters. In her first feature film, Me, You, and Everyone We Know, it's hard not to look away as the film's damaged and lonely characters try to connect with one another, yet their hearts are so genuinely good and trusting, it's also hard not to root for them.

In No One Belongs Here More Than You, July's characters are equally damaged, lonely, and looking for human connection; however, they are far less cuddly than July's film creations. There is the sense that most will never find the love they seek, and some may not even deserve it. This is off-putting and unsettling, though not necessarily a bad thing.

July demonstrates an impressive range here in the types of stories and characters she is able to write. Less impressive, however, is her narrative voice. Whether the character is a young woman or an old man, the voice is the same - clipped, detached, and willfully precocious. For some characters, such as the love-addled teen turned sex worker in "Something That Needs Nothing," this voice works admirably, but some others just don't ring true.

Still, July can tell a story, and even old, frequently-told ones are fresh in her hands. "Mon Plaisir," a story about a new age couple that attempts to rekindle their failing romance with haircuts, meditation, and background acting, is both affecting and funny, and "The Swim Team," my favorite story of the bunch, is a poignant little slice of perfect.

If you like...: the stories of Lorrie Moore, Amy Bloom, or Mary Gaitskill, this book is for you.
* a line from Me, You, and Everyone We Know, in reference to uncomfortable footwear

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