Tuesday, May 22, 2007

No One Belongs Here More Than You by Miranda July

I'm a fan of Miranda July, who is a filmmaker (Me and You and Everyone We Know), musician, performance artist, and writer. I particularly like her website, Learning to Love You More, which seems to exhibit the world view that life can be one big art project and wouldn't it be better if it were. I'd read some of her stories in various magazines and was really looking forward to reading the rest when this collection came out.

In the end, though, the stories I'd read before were the best ones and as I read the whole book all the way through I thought about the difference between story cycles (in which the stories are linked somehow) and story collections. I'm often an advocate for the collection; I find the recent market-driven decision to turn most collections into cycles unnecessary and a little bit annoying. I think by tying stories together writers often get away with including weaker stories--or doing less work in individual stories to make them great. Great story cycles work both ways--as individual stories and as a greater whole when put together--but great story collections work both ways too.

So back to July--I, for once, thought this should be a story cycle instead of a story collection. July's protagonists are often youngish single women who share the same quirks, concerns, and ways of viewing the world. Now I'm a big fan of this character--who is much like the protagonist of July's film--she is funny and sad and sharply observant with charmingly weird reactions to almost everything--but when you meet fifteen versions of her, you start to wonder if the world could possibly be populated with a tribe of quirky thirtysomethings who were maybe all raised on some remote women's collective together than spread to the four corners--or if this is just the same woman operating under fifteen different aliases. If all of the stories had been linked by one protagonist I think they might have grown in value rather than diminished.

With that said, there are a handful of stories in here that are among my favorite stories of the past two decades--and that's saying something.