three-and-half-stars
Bookmarks Issue: 
31-Nov-Dec-2007
By: 
Miranda July
user_rating: 
0

Stories

A-No One Belongs Here More Than YouAlthough these 16 stories explore loneliness and alienation, they possess quirky sweetness and quiet humor to produce an overall effect of hope. In "The Swim Team," the isolated young narrator teaches three elderly pupils how to swim (despite the absence of a pool) by having them lie on the floor of her apartment to practice, faces immersed in bowls of tap water. "The Shared Patio" features a woman who tries to help her epileptic neighbor but becomes distracted by the photographs on his refrigerator. In "Something That Needs Nothing," two teenaged girls run away, their lives descending into a sordid mess that includes the narrator’s stint in a peepshow at an adult video store. Each story captures an emptiness of spirit while somehow surpassing the mundane.
Scribner. 205 pages. $23. ISBN: 0743299396

San Diego Union-Tribune 4 of 5 Stars
"[A]s their darkest moments pass, the fragile and very human personalities in July’s stories begin to feel gratitude for the happenstance things of the world, the throwaway moments they too often fail to notice. … [These] stories often take on the surreal nature of a flash mob in a quiet library—totally unexpected, a bit startling, undeniably captivating, and, if done right, humming with comic profundity." Tiffany Lee-Youngren

Seattle Times 4 of 5 Stars
"The stories are lined with creepy offhand particulars about her characters’ fetishistic sex lives—everything from incest to self-gratification to voyeurism. That may be off-putting for some readers, which is a shame because what really resonates is the clarity of her voice and the weird innocence that shines through." Mary Brennan

Entertainment Weekly 3.5 of 5 Stars
"These are terrific, if same-y, stories about a thousand kinds of loneliness. … There’s often a stark sexual undercurrent in these stories." Jeff Giles

Oregonian 3.5 of 5 Stars
"The 16 stories portray small, barren lives that alienate yet entrance. … July’s narratives are awkward and addictive and tinged with the faint optimism… that a message will arrive one day." J. David Santen Jr.

NY Times Book Review 3 of 5 Stars
" 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." Sheelah Kolhatkar

South FL Sun-Sentinel 3 of 5 Stars
"[A] talented and, at times, uneven assemblage of lives endured in fantasy, in despair, in the hope that some small pivot will set the lost squarely on love’s path again. … The amount of time spent inside a main character’s head can be exhausting." Emma Trelles

Critical Summary

Miranda July’s impressive accomplishments include two exhibits at the Whitney Biennial, an award-winning film (Me and You and Everyone We Know), two albums on the record label Kill Rock Stars, and now her praised collection of short stories (encouraged by her literary mentor Rick Moody). The stories, previously published in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, Harper’s, Tin House, and other literary journals, won July praise as "a strange and compelling new voice" (Seattle Times). Even those who found the collection uneven and the narrative voices of each story eerily similar admire the best ones as "funny and insightful, offering moments of utter heartbreak through deeper, more sophisticated storytelling" (New York Times Book Review).