'No One Belongs Here More Than You' by Miranda July

Monday 4 May 2015

book review, miranda july, no one belongs here more than you

‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’ is a collection of sixteen beautiful stories by Miranda July, but maybe just a different definition of beautiful to what you first see. July’s stories are infested with isolation. They focus on the dissatisfied and the obsessed. This repetition of failure, of dreams, of secluded perversions that paint themselves through devices show July’s abilities to pick at wounds that you may have never considered but have now been consumed by. The only comfort you will find in collection resides in its reminder that you may feel alone with your idiosyncrasies but we all have them and we will all try to escape or embrace them.

‘The Sister’ traces the fantasies of fucking youth, the temptation to the lonely elderly and the protagonists yearning to impress. A co-worker adheres with this enticing idea of his younger sister but July turns this dark distortion into the root of the longing, the desperation of loneliness and what the voices are really looking for in their loss of companionship through the years.

This need for another comes through in ‘Something That Needs Nothing’ as two girls run away together with a less assured narrator. This hint of suggestion touches at the darkness before the pair is even given a chance.  We are lost in her desperation and dependence:

We turned away from each other and set about tightening the tiny ropes of our misery. I ran a bath. Just before I stepped in the tub, I heard the front door close and froze mid-step; she was gone. Sometimes she did this. In the moments when other couples would fight or come together, she left me. With one foot in the bath, I stood waiting for her to return. I waited an unreasonably long time, long enough to realize she wouldn’t be back tonight. But what if I waited it out, what if I stood here naked until she returned? And then, just as she walked in the front door, I could finish the gesture, squatting in the then-cold water. I had done strange things like this before. I had hidden under cars for hours, waiting to be found; I had written the same word seven thousand times attempting to alchemize time. I studied my position in the bathtub. The foot in the water was already wrinkly. How would I feel when night fell? And when she came home, how long would it take her to look in the bathroom? Would she understand that time had stopped while she was gone? And even if she did realize that I had done this impossible feat for her, what then? She was never thankful or sympathetic. I washed quickly, with exaggerated motions that warded off paralysis.

I am not here to give stories away but rather reflect on how much there is to gain from them. But the way in which this narrator turns and attempts to empower herself from her own fragile opinion drives what you find in yourself in heartbreak, in what you are capable of when needs be: "I hated my job, but I liked that I could do it. I had once believed in a precious inner self, but now I didn't. I had thought that I was fragile, but I wasn't. It was like suddenly being good at sports." This strong movement in itself still cries in desperation, it is impossible to not be filled with their hurt whilst lost in ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’.  I ached it how much it must hurt to love someone so much you would wait wrinkle footed in a cold bath just to show them that everything stopped when they were not there.

book review, miranda july, no one belongs here more than you

We are always taught to show not tell, but July turns this, we are told everything, what you interpret is yours but we are fed peculiarities in damaged people as if they are an art themselves.  This falls in place with her trend to repeat words so closely that you feel should be watching them, as if July is desperate for you to pick up on something. This ability to change the short story deconstructs how I have absorbed ‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’ as I have aligned the parts of me and learned from those that are not.

‘How To Tell Stories To Children’ culminates the collection in an intricate narrative that crosses time and characters to find our narrator lost in secluded reality where a life is lost in the desperation to nurture another. In the complex relationship between a married couple, their daughter and their single, childless friend they all seem to lose in the warped loss of communication over time. Through July’s tender collection we live through realities that can never be escaped, regardless of these distorted fantasies or warped attempted escapes, although we get to leave these stories the characters do not.  

My favourite stories are those that revel in the insignificant and that is what Miranda July has done perfectly.  Those human engagements that make us who we are and what make our lives. July pulls us further than this, into intimacies that may never leave your mind and questions what happens if they should. If we lived our escapes what would it change?  What happened after the couple stopped rubbing their toes? Was the patio ever shared? What happens if you take that step past Lam Kien? Insignificant thoughts that could mean everything.  

‘…and I whispered, It’s not your fault.’
book review, miranda july, no one belongs here more than you

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