Literary reviews by Tim Love.
Warning: Rather than reviews, these are often notes in preparation for reviews that were never finished, or pleas for help with understanding pieces. See Litref Reviews - a rationale for details.

Saturday, 9 July 2016

"No one belongs here more than you" by Miranda July (Canongate, 2007)

Stories from Harvard Review, New Yorker, The Paris Review, etc.

Here are 3 extracts (the first being the story's beginning) from the first story, "The Shared Patio"

  • It still counts, even though it happened when he was unconscious. It counts doubly because the conscious mind often makes mistakes, falls for the wrong person. But down there in the well, where there is no light and only thousand-year-old water, a man has no reason to make mistakes (p.1)
  • People tend to stick to their own size group because it's easier on the neck. Unless they are romantically involved, in which case the size difference is sexy. It means: I am willing to go the distance for you (p.2)
  • Please come! the invitation said. We'll have a whale of a time! and there was a picture of a whale. It was a real whale, a photograph of a real whale. I looked into its tiny wise eye and wondered where that eye was now. Was it alive and swimming, or had it died long ago, or was it dying now, right this second? When a whale dies, it falls down through the ocean slowly, over the course of a day. All the other fish see it fall like a giant statue, like a building, but slowly, slowly (p.9)

Such quirkiness, humour and similies pervade the stories. I like "Majesty", "Mon Plaisir", the 1-page "The Moves" and the 5 page "The Man on the Stairs". In "Majesty" a woman has lost a dog - "Then Potato ran by. He was a little brown dog, just like the woman said. He tore past me like he was about to miss a plane. He was gone by the time I even realized it had to be Potato. But he looked joyful, and I thought: Good for him. Live the dream, Potato" (p.25) ... "This time she was in a little red car. She had not even put on her clothes; she was still wearing the robe. And she was yelling 'Potato' so desperately that she was forgetting to stick her head out the window, she was yelling into the interior of the car uselessly as if Potato were within her, like God" (p.27)

Sex of various types (M+F, F+F, age-gap, commercial, casual, submissive, imagined) gets linked to self-discovery, though what's discovered isn't always good news. Self-transformations are hoped for, and these may involve one's partner - in "Mon Plaisir" a couple become film-extras, acting in mime a couple in a restaurant who are happier than they are.

I thought that "I kiss a door", "The Boy from Lam Kien" and "Birthmark" were less good. "Love in 2003" was interesting psychologically though less successful as a story.

Other reviews

  • Josh Lacey (The Guardian) (Although a few read like experiments that didn't quite work, the majority of the 16 stories in No One Belongs Here More Than You are blisteringly good)
  • Shelah Kolhatkar (New York Times) (The book is a series of vignettes in which lonely, disconnected characters try to find communion with others, often by acting out in bizarre ways. ... A handful of these stories are sweet and revealing, although in many cases the attempt to create “art” is too self-conscious, and the effort comes off as pointlessly strange.)
  • Emma Trelles (Pop Matters) (July ends several of her stories with her characters’ humble efforts at change. But they are enough; we buy into them because the voices behind the act are so commanding. This is probably the collection’s biggest gift but also its most obvious flaw. ... It’s all the same narrator immersed in her own wanting.)

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