I feel like short stories are a greatly overlooked form of writing. People are way more likely to read novels or memoir, which are equally great, but it’s kind of strange to me that the general attention span today is lessening, yet people still generally read novels more than shorter fiction. Like, a novel is to a film as a short story is to an episode of a television show. But then again, just because a short story is short doesn’t mean it’s lacking in quality. So, in conclusion, nothing i just wasted eighty-eight words on is true, and i’m being deeply transparent about my failure to make a compelling observation about the world we live in today.
But anyway, I read No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories by Miranda July, which was actually my first experience with a short story collection. I found i rather liked it. Some stories were shorter than others, but it was fun to experience tales of varying lengths, as well as different subject matter. I must say, though, content-wise, i was a little put off at first. No One is very clever and very bizarre, two elements which distanced me from her characters and stories initially. Or, bizarre is inaccurate, i guess: it wasn’t like none of the situations she created, such as a woman laying in bed fearing that she is about to get robbed, could happen, but the characters’ reactions to the situations are bizarre and detached. And sometimes the situations themselves, such as a woman giving swimming lessons to a group of elderly people in her living room, were too quirky for me to find heart in. So, for the first third or so of the book, i was entertained, but not especially drawn in. Until i reached “Something That Needs Nothing,” one of the longer pieces in the collection.
Oh, my goodness. Maybe it was just pulling at my queer heart strings, or maybe i felt more invested in the characters, or maybe it was just easy for me to identify with a story of two recently-graduated girls. Whatever it was, this one really got me. When one girl leaves the other for a new girl she has fallen in love with, i literally felt a stab of pain in my heart. And from this point on, for one reason or another, i was able to relate more closely to the characters of each story, long or short, especially culminating in the last story in the book, “How to Tell Stories to Children,” a poignant and provocative tale of the friendship between a middle-aged woman and the daughter of two of her friends.
Another winning point of this collection was the variety of protagonists, which included the young, the old, males, females, gays and straights. As Josh Lacey points out in his review of the work on the Guardian’s website, all of these narrators (all the stories are told from the first-person POV) sound largely similar, which could become tiresome if you read the book for large chunks of time, but if some breaks are taken in between, it’s less noticeable and hardly offensive.
July’s talents don’t end with prose: in fact, she’s primarily a director who has dabbled in multimedia visual art, performance art, acting, and punk music. Cool tidbit relating to an earlier post: July was once best friends with Johanna Fateman, who is a part of the dance-punk band Le Tigre, which is headed by who else but the great Kathleen Hanna, and has also appeared in a music video of riot grrrl band Sleater-Kinney. Also notable is her now retired online project, Learning to Love You More, the results of which also collected into a book.