Synopses & Reviews
Award-winning filmmaker and performing artist Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection. In these stories, July gives the most seemingly insignificant moments a sly potency. A benign encounter, a misunderstanding, a shy revelation can reconfigure the world. Her characters engage awkwardly they are sometimes too remote, sometimes too intimate. With great compassion and generosity, July reveals their idiosyncrasies and the odd logic and longing that govern their lives.
No One Belongs Here More Than You is a stunning debut, the work of a writer with a spectacularly original and compelling voice.
"An accomplished debut collection of 16 stories, simultaneously bizarre and achingly familiar....A smart, original collection." Kirkus Reviews
"July's collection of stories is a gem of unconventional storytelling. Comparisons to Lorrie Moore only get the potential reader halfway there; one must add Karen Finley's meditations and Douglas Coupland's painful self-exploration." Booklist
"Some of these couplings are startling, but others are cliches that drag down an otherwise witty and unusual book. The best moments here are small...and as they accrue the collection becomes an exhilarating read." Library Journal
"[T]he book is full of wistful, wonderful observations about the limits of connection, about the hopes and disappointments of intimacy....July has created a voice that is alive and winning and very funny as she struggles to answer their questions and, ultimately, ours." Los Angeles Times
"The problem with Ms. July's writing, of course, is that even her metaphors seem to indicate something about youth culture....Her voice is positioned as generational, and in fiction that can be distracting." New York Sun
"July is a strange and compelling new voice; her worlds feel real and surreal and desperately sad and filled with what one character calls 'secret joy,' at the same time. And while there is often a frustrating air of utter self-absorption about many of these disconnected souls, their hearts are powerfully human." Seattle Times
"July's is a distinctive aesthetic that, misread, can seem flip, pointless and cold....These stories are marked by an imagination that conjures the incredible, renders it mundane (often through sex) and captures an emptiness of modern spirit." The Oregonian
"If the territory in No One Belongs Here More Than You seems familiar, her treatment of it is different, less coolly twee." New York Magazine
"This volume isn't a comfortable place to be....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, The New York Times Book Review
Screenwriter, director, and star of the acclaimed film Me and You and Everyone We Know
, Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection.
About the Author
Miranda July is a filmmaker, writer, and performing artist. Her work has been presented at sites such as The Kitchen, the Guggenheim Museum, and in two Whitney Biennials. She wrote, directed, and starred in her first feature-length film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, which received a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Caméra d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. July's short fiction has been published in the New Yorker, the Paris Review, Harper's, and Zoetrope, and has been heard on Public Radio. Raised in Berkeley, California, she lives in Los Angeles.
Table of Contents
The Shared Patio
The Swim Team
The Man on the Stairs
It Was Romance
Something That Needs Nothing
I Kiss a Door
The Boy from Lam Kien
Making Love in 2003
Ten True Things
Birthmark How to Tell Stories to Children
Reading Group Guide
No One Belongs Here More Than You
Reading Group Guide
1. Many of the characters in Miranda July's stories are lonely, vulnerable and tentative, yet clearly the intent of the author is not to expose or ridicule them but to make them sympathetic to the reader. Are there characters in these stories who unexpectedly win your heart? Are there some whose behavior you cannot understand?
2. In The Shared Patio, the narrator explains that telling Vincent Chang "it's not your fault" was "really the only thing I had ever wanted to say to anyone, and be told" (pg. 7). What does she mean by this?
3. In The Swim Team, "Maria" tells Kelda that resisting putting her face into the bowl of water is "the body telling you it doesn't want to die" (pg. 16). What is it that divides the three elderly people in this story to sign up for swimming lessons?
4. The narrator in Majesty educates people on earthquake safety, engaging her own fears. And she dreams of Prince William? Yet she says "Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy to hope for something else" (pg. 31), why does she have this dream? Is there a strange optimism in Miranda July's stories?
5. What does The Man on the Stairs represent? Why does the narrator think about the friends she dislikes and the boy at the gas station when she first hears him coming towards her room? Instead of waking Kevin or calling for help, why does she get out of bed and face him by herself?
6. "We do terrible things, we make wars, we kill out of greed. So who are we to say how to love" (pg. 43). Does the narrator in The Sister truly believe his argument for preferring teenage girls, or is this a rationalization that allows him to continue his behavior? When does he first realize Blanca doesn't actually exist? And why does he acquiesce to Victor?
7. What is the "dark shape" in Making Love in 2003? As an adult, why does the narrator believe this darkness has been transformed into her student, Stephen Krause? After discovering he has another girlfriend, why does she write "Peace" on the chalkboard?
8. In Mon Plaisir, what is the significance of Carl and the narrator practicing Buddhism, tai chi, macrobiotic diets, and favoring only things that are "MEANINGFUL" (pg. 148)?
9. In Birthmark, why does the narrator regret her decision to remove her "stain?" What did this mark represent to both her and others? When it reappears, why does her husband believe she'll finally want to have a child with him?
10. When and why does the relationship change between Deb and Lyon in How to Tell Stories to Children? Do you consider their family relationship in the best interest of the three adults, or the child? If her eyes are "triumphant" (pg. 201) when she brings Ed Borger home, what is Lyon trying to win?
11. In Something That Needs Nothing, "Gwen" noticed "We were always getting away with something, which implied that someone was always watching us, which meant we were not alone in this world" (pg. 75). Several of the characters in other stories also mention the idea of someone looking over them. Is this a way of assuring loneliness?
12. Are there any overarching themes that link these stories together? Did you find connections between the characters -- do they occupy similar worlds?
13. Discuss the sense of loneliness in this collection. Which characters feel isolated from the rest of society? Is this their choice? Do any of them change?
Enhancing Your Book Club Tips:
1. Not only is Miranda July an award-winning author, she's also an accomplished filmmaker and performer. Before discussing No One Belongs Here More Than You, watch her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know.
2. To find out more information about Miranda July's projects, visit her website at: www.mirandajuly.com.
3. Miranda and artists Harold Fletcher created a participatory website: http://learningtoloveyoumore.com/ Visit it and share what you thought with your bookclub!