No One Belongs Here More Than You
by Miranda July
Miranda July has a website with one of the most charming entry pages ever. Go to it here and you will see what I mean. The official website for this book will also give you a good idea of her sense of humour. For those who have seen her film Me and You and Everyone We Know this collection of stories will have a familiar feel. It is an unsettling experience sometimes to see the world through July's eyes but there is an innocence in her characters which is incredibly endearing and which means that even the strangest of them can arouse our sympathy.
Innocence does not mean that these stories are soft in any way. On the contrary, July has the ability to cut through her own setups with a moment that will suddenly shift your perspective. In Majesty we meet a middle aged woman obsessed with Prince William but as we read we see that her sex-life has always been lived vicariously through her sisters exploits and how symbiotic this relationship is. 'It is this way between us; it has always been this way. She has always taken care of me like this. If I could quietly kill her without anyone knowing, I would'.
In a few stories we see the moment when couples realise that they are not right for each other. In The Man On The Stairs a woman is convinced that if the intruder she can hear in her house were to enter her bedroom he would be able to see in her boyfriend's eyes, 'You can have her, just let me live. And in my eyes, he would see the words: I never really knew true love'. In Mon Plaisir a couple realise that they must part when the passion that has been missing from their relationship finally surfaces as they pretend to be other people whilst working as background actors on a film. Something That Needs Nothing shows us a young girl driven to work in a peep show after her roommate/unconsummated lover leaves her. Out of this situation comes surprising humour:
'All I had was a key to the apartment. If I didn't make any money tonight I would have to walk back there. At night. In this outfit. I was in a unique situation where I needed to give a Live Fantasy Show in order to protect my personal safety.'
When she meets her friend again it is her new persona, her wig and strippers garb, that seems to facilitate the consummation of their relationship. The description of which articulates perfectly the anticipation of sharing a bed with someone you want so badly.
'We lay there, perfectly still, for a long time. Finally, the man upstairs coughed, which set off a wave of kinetic energy. Pip adjusted her shoulders so that the outermost edge of her T-shirt grazed my arm; I recrossed my legs, carelessly letting my ankle fall against her shin. Five more seconds passed, like heavy bass drum beats, the three of us were motionless. Then he shifted on the couch and we instantly turned to each other, each mouth fell upon the other, our hands grabbed urgently, even painfully.'
The final story of the collection How To Tell Stories To Children is a triumph. Covering decades in just over 20 pages it describes the relationship between a middle aged woman and the daughter of her married friends whose relationship is in terminal decline. It contains many intricacies and insights into the dependence of this childless woman on her charge. On her website July is happy to declare that the story ends with the word triumphant and by the time you reach the end of this book you will know how important context is to the meaning of even that one single word.