Saturday, May 21, 2011

Swimming in bowls and others

Book: No One Belongs Here More Than You

Author: Miranda July

Publication: 2007 (Scribner)

Pages of story: 201

“It’s indie quirk, and I eat it up with a spoon.”

You know what’s awesome about being in a relationship with a fellow hipster-in-training bibliophile who gravitates toward any story described as “quirky”? If you can’t tell me, I’m not sure we can be friends, but here’s a hint you can pretend I didn’t give you: borrowing access to things like Miranda July’s short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You. (Growing vinyl collections and staring at each other through ridiculous sunglasses are also big parts of the fun.)

July’s stories are insightful, disturbing, joyful complexities teased from grains of life blown into absurdity that made me laugh and then wonder if I should feel ashamed of myself for laughing. She touches on (no pun intended, I swear; oh now I feel so dirty completing this clause) perverse sexual relationships without acting like they’re anything out of the ordinary; she talks about a girl who teaches three senior citizens to swim by coaching them the right moves while they’re face down in bowls of water in her living room like it was a natural progression from overhearing the oldsters talking about how they couldn’t swim. (That was my favorite story, “Swim Team.”) She digs into insecurities and presents the weird ways her characters deal with them like she knows we all have weird ways of dealing with them, and that’s alright, that’s cool, that’s good and the way to go.

I also liked that she doesn’t use quotation marks. In the wrong hands, this drives your Constant Reader to book-throwing frustration because why the hell did you do this, writer? Because it LOOKS PRETTY? NOT AN ANSWER. July totally gets away with it, though. It’s clear enough whether her characters are talking or thinking, and at the same time lack of quotation marks brings their external and internal ideas closer together.

Good stuff. I’m off to Read Constantly. Lots of good words to you.

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