From the Publisher
"These stories are incredibly charming, beautifully written, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and even, a dozen or so times, profound. Miranda July is a very real writer, and has one of the most original voices to appear in fiction in many years. Fans of Lorrie Moore should rub this book all over themselves she's got that perfect balance of humor and pathos. There has been no more enjoyable and promising a debut collection in many a moon." Dave Eggers
"These delightful stories do that essential-but-rare story thing: they surprise. They skip past the quotidian, the merely real, to the essential, and do so with a spirit of tenderness and wonder that is wholly unique. They are (let me coin a phrase) July-esque, which is to say: infused with wonder at the things of the world." George Saunders, author of In Persuasion Nation
"Miranda July's is a beautiful, odd, original voice seductive, sometimes erotic, and a little creepy, too." David Byrne
"A woman gives swimming lessons in her kitchen of course! Miranda July can make anything seem normal in these truly original stories. She has first-rate comic timing and a generous view of the human condition. Maybe best of all, there's joy here, too, often where you would not expect to find it." Amy Hempel, author of The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel
Already a darling of the indie avant-garde, performance artist and award-winning film director Miranda July now storms the literary ramparts with a collection of transcendent short fiction that adds luster to her reputation. Peppered with startling (and sometimes shocking) plot twists, the 16 stories in this anthology feature lonely misfits riddled with eccentricities, longing for connection, and desperate to invent some happiness in a world that throws up barriers at every turn. As she did so memorably in her art house hit Me and You and Everyone We Know, July forces us to see the humanity in people who are less than lovable, laying bare their vulnerabilities with exquisite and unexpected tenderness. With rave reviews from respected literati like Dave Eggars, Rick Moody, and George Saunders, this debut collection seems poised to make a big splash.
… there are stories like “Something That Needs Nothing,” about two girls who run away together. This is July at her best — funny and insightful, offering moments of utter heartbreak through deeper, more sophisticated storytelling. The exploits of the narrator and her girlfriend, Pip, who “saw herself as a charming street urchin, a pet for wealthy mothers,” as they cope with a roach-infested apartment, break up and reconnect, are both tender and gripping. Even as the narrator discovers a talent for peeling off her clothes in a grimy peep-booth, one can’t help rooting for her, awkwardness and all.
The New York Times
It's a testament to July's artistry that the narrators of this arresting first collection elicit empathy rather than groans. "Making Love in 2003," for example, follows a young woman's dubious trajectory from being the passive, discarded object of her writing professor's attentions to seducing a 14-year-old boy in the special-needs class she teaches, while another young woman enters the sex industry when her girlfriend abandons her, with a surprising effect on the relationship. July's characters over these 16 stories get into similarly extreme situations in their quests to be loved and accepted, and often resort to their fantasy lives when the real world disappoints (which is often): the self-effacing narrator of "The Shared Patio" concocts a touching romance around her epilectic Korean neighbor; the aging single man of "The Sister" weaves an elaborate fantasy around his factory colleague Victor's teenage sister (who doesn't exist) to seduce someone else. July's single emotional register is familiar from her film Me and You and Everyone We Know, but it's a capacious one: wry, wistful, vulnerable, tough and tender, it fully accommodates moments of bleak human reversals. These stories are as immediate and distressing as confessionals. (May) Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
A filmmaker (Me and You and Everyone We Know) and multimedia artist (www.learningtoloveyoumore.com), July brings her trademark whimsy to this debut story collection. The protagonists here are lonely dreamers, and what they dream about is often a little creepy: a territorial type, wondering whether she is getting her money's worth out of the patio she has to share, falls asleep while her neighbor has a seizure on the bench beside her; a middle-aged woman fantasizes about seducing Prince William to the sounds of Mike and the Mechanics; a disgruntled secretary goes to absurd lengths to befriend her boss's wife. Betrayals small and large seem to be the norm, and inappropriate sex abounds: student-teacher, therapist-patient, consensual incest, molestation. Some of these couplings are startling, but others are clich s that drag down an otherwise witty and unusual book. The best moments here are small-a spectacular failure in sewing class, an unexpected visit from a neighborhood boy, a lost dog named Potato-and as they accrue the collection becomes an exhilarating read.-Leora Bersohn, doctoral student, Columbia Univ., New York Copyright 2006 Reed Business Information.
An accomplished debut collection of 16 stories, simultaneously bizarre and achingly familiar. July wrote, directed and starred in the indie film Me and You and Everyone We Know, and the same slightly anguished humor informs these stories, peopled by misfits and loners not quite apprised of their own lowly status. The characters interact tentatively, inappropriately. They are dangerously lonesome people (despite their naive attempts to connect) who have a lot of awkward sex. In "The Sister," an old bachelor is fixed up by fellow factory worker Victor. Victor's sister Blanca is always just out of sight, misses dates, becomes the stuff of mythology between the two men-until it becomes clear on a drugged-out night what Victor's intentions really are. The longest of the collection, "Something That Needs Nothing," follows two lesbians after high-school graduation as they run away to Portland, Ore. There they rent a cockroach-infested studio and try to find work, preferably one servicing an older woman willing to support them. Things don't work out quite so dreamily, as one girl abandons the other to earn a living at Mr. Peeps Adult Video Store and More. "Mon Plaisir" traces a couple's decline from passionless (including some of the saddest sex possible-he "nurses" her while she masturbates) to mute, as they find they like each other more when they get work as extras in a movie. There are a number of evocative short pieces-a woman teaches some seniors how to swim, a teacher believes her teenage poltergeist lover has taken the form of one of her Special Ed students, a woman who has had a port-stain birthmark removed from her face wonders if her husband would love her if she still had it. Thestories have an otherworldly quality, but instead of being fantastical, they are emblematic of a modern loneliness in which the boundaries of normal behavior become useless, where the best that can be hoped for is a kind of aggressive voyeurism. A smart, original collection.
Read an Excerpt
Someone is getting excited. Somebody somewhere is shaking with excitement because something tremendous is about to happen to this person. This person has dressed for the occasion. This person has hoped and dreamed and now it is really happening and this person can hardly believe it. But believing is not an issue here, the time for faith and fantasy is over, it is really really happening. It involves stepping forward and bowing. Possibly there is some kneeling, such as when one is knighted. One is almost never knighted. But this person may kneel and receive a tap on each shoulder with a sword. Or, more likely, this person will be in a car or a store or under a vinyl canopy when it happens. Or online or on the phone. It could be an e-mail re: your knighthood. Or a long, laughing, rambling phone message in which every person this person has ever known is talking on a speakerphone and they are all saying,You have passed the test, it was all just a test, we were only kidding, real life is so much better than that. This person is laughing out loud with relief and playing the message back to get the address of the place where every person this person has ever known is waiting to hug this person and bring her into the fold of life. It is really exciting, and it's not just a dream, it's real.
They are all waiting by a picnic table in a park this person has driven past many times before. There they are, it's everyone. There are balloons taped to the benches, and the girl this person used to stand next to at the bus stop is waving a streamer. Everyone is smiling. For a moment this person is almost creeped out by the scene, but it would be so like this person to become depressed on the happiest day ever, and so this person bucks up and joins the crowd.
Teachers of subjects that this person wasn't even good at are kissing this person and renouncing the very subjects they taught. Math teachers are saying that math was just a funny way of saying "I love you." But now they are simply saying it, I love you, and the chemistry and PE teachers are also saying it and this person can tell they really mean it. It's totally amazing. Certain jerks and idiots and assholes appear from time to time, and it is as if they have had plastic surgery, their faces are disfigured with love. The handsome assholes are plain and kind, and the ugly jerks are sweet, and they are folding this person's sweater and putting it somewhere where it won't get dirty. Best of all, every person this person has ever loved is there. Even the ones who got away. They hold this person's hand and tell this person how hard it was to pretend to get mad and drive off and never come back. This person almost can't believe it, it seemed so real, this person's heart was broken and has healed and now this person hardly knows what to think. This person is almost mad. But everyone soothes this person. Everyone explains that it was absolutely necessary to know how strong this person was. Oh, look, there's the doctor who prescribed the medicine that made this person temporarily blind. And the man who paid this person two thousand dollars to have sex with him three times when this person was very broke. Both of these men are in attendance, they seem to know each other. They both have little medals that they are pinning on this person; they are badges of great honor and strength. The badges sparkle in the sunlight, and everyone cheers.
This person suddenly feels the need to check her post office box. It is an old habit, and even if everything is going to be terrific from now on, this person still wants mail. This person says she will be right back and everyone this person has ever known says, Fine, take your time. This person gets in her car and drives to the post office and opens the box and there is nothing. Even though it is a Tuesday, which is famously a good day for mail. This person is so disappointed, this person gets back in the car and, having completely forgotten about the picnic, drives home and checks the voice mail and there are no new messages, just the old one about "passing the test" and "life being better." There are no e-mails, either, probably because everyone is at the picnic. This person can't seem to go back to the picnic. This person realizes that staying home means blowing off everyone this person has ever known. But the desire to stay in is very strong. This person wants to run a bath and then read in bed.
In the bathtub this person pushes the bubbles around and listens to the sound of millions of them popping at once. It almost makes one smooth sound instead of many tiny sounds. This person's breasts barely jut out of the water. This person pushes the bubbles onto the breasts and makes weird shapes with the foam. By now everyone must have realized that this person is not coming back to the picnic. Everyone was wrong; this person is not who they thought this person was. This person plunges underwater and moves her hair around like a sea anemone. This person can stay underwater for an impressively long time but only in a bathtub. This person wonders if there will ever be an Olympic contest for holding your breath under bathwater. If there were such a contest, this person would surely win it. An Olympic medal might redeem this person in the eyes of everyone this person has ever known. But no such contest exists, so there will be no redeeming. This person mourns the fact that she has ruined her one chance to be loved by everyone; as this person climbs into bed, the weight of this tragedy seems to bear down upon this person's chest. And it is a comforting weight, almost human in heft. This person sighs. This person's eyes begin to close, this person sleeps.
Copyright © 2007 by Miranda July