I had been meaning to read Miranda July’s book No One Belongs Here More Than You for the better part of 2 years. I really like Miranda July. I thought her movie, Me and you and everyone we know was supremely adorable and terribly funny and it made my heart ache for hours, and I think that she herself is supremely adorable. She also wears super-cute clothing, and rumor has it, if you write her a letter she will write one back to you. All of these things seemed to say to me that her book would be full of wonder and pandas hugging and rainbows and sparkles. They also seemed to say that she might actually create something enjoyable and good.
Color me the fool.
I should have known from the reviews on the back. I really should have known. Dave Eggers loved this book. Dave Eggers is my mortal enemy (he doesn’t know that, though) and I SHOULD HAVE KNOWN that if he loved it, I would hate it.
I don’t think Miranda July is a bad writer. I actually think she’s a strong writer (I read a review somewhere that described her writing style as “fierce”–maybe so, and wouldn’t Tyra Banks be proud?) who isn’t quite there yet. There are a lot of sentences in this book that are hilarious and that I want to capture and wear as a necklace for all time. At the same time, there is a lot of total garbage. Do you have any friends who constantly say uncomfortable things just for the sake of being uncomfortable? Just for the sake of making you squirm in your seat? I have friends like this, and an uncle too, and while I fully appreciate artwork that freaks me the fuck out because I am so nervous, I cannot honestly stand 16 short stories with only two repeating themes: pedophilia and incest. A lot of her writing verges on vulgar, which is also fine and dandy. Maybe this is just July’s type: awkward and nervous and uncomfortable. Okay, great–three or four freaky, creepy stories would be fine in a collection like this. Can we maybe, just maybe, try to break out of this? I hate to go back to Ty-Ty on this (actually I LOVE IT), but honey, you’d be in the bottom two over and over again for showing the same damn pose every challenge. Do. Something. Different.
I have read countless glowing reviews of this book, and I really don’t get it. I liked one or two of the stories a great deal. She has many great thoughts that seem to just go nowhere. Saying something just to say it, if you will. I can’t excuse this, though. I think July is a wonderful filmmaker and, from what I’ve seen, a gifted artist, but are we excusing her book just because we already know she’s talented? I refuse to do this. I will not let this slide by because she’s adorable. Nope.
I read this book in under 36 hours (it’s kind of skimpy in length and I also have a lot of free time this week)–this might have been my problem. I recall reading one story from this collection in the New Yorker two years ago and really liking it. Maybe I can’t stand the shuffle of one story that’s not unlike another story I just read that’s identical to the story I’m about to read sixteen times in a row.
I honestly wouldn’t recommend this book to anybody. I would suggest maybe an excerpt or two to devoted friends who won’t judge me for recommending such total garbage to them. It’s depressing to think that so many people loved this book, and give it as gifts, and carry it around, and probably quote it in their fiction classes. If I hadn’t already known Miranda July’s work, I never would have given this book a second thought when I passed it at the library. If I hadn’t enjoyed her movie, I never would have finished it.
Can we stop passing cuteness off as talent? Say something new. In a new way. And I will love you for all time. Forever.