The front cover of this collection of short stories has one of those Egger quotes on top. He says the book is “incredibly charming, beautifully written, frequently laugh-out-loud funny.” His quote continues on the inside cover and says that fans of “Lorrie Moore should rub this book all over themselves,” which is actually a stupid thing to say when taken literally!
Anyway, I hadn’t heard of July, despite her apparent fame as director of the film ‘You Me and Everyone We Know’ but you my love of Lorrie Moore and Dave Eggers combined to make this a must buy.
(Oh, incidentally, July made a promo for it which was shots of writing on top of her fridge that said basically buy this book. It felt to me like try too hard to be DIY indie cool, and actually put me off.)
It is impossible for me to review the book without using the work quirky. There it is, dammit, this book is a collection of QUIRKY short stories. The snarky short story writer that is me feels bitchy and wonders if I had subbed any of these tales would I have had them placed in McSweeney’s, The New Yorker et al. Or is it just that her achingly cool connections get her the kind of respect I dream of?
So, to the stories themselves. This is where I admit that I was utterly charmed by her voice. Her characters are lonely, uneasy, searching. They are normal people doing normal things that then slide into oddness. There is humour and sadness in them, but there is also an essential feeling of hope.
In ‘I kiss a door’ the narrator tells us in just over 4 pages her discovery of a shocking truth about her friend. July has great skill in choosing just the right words to breezily explain something that could have been laboured and over written and made so much more complex. This is her greatest talent I think, her ability to use dialogue or to invite us in to her characters mind and tell us things with deceptive ease. Several times I thought, wow, that’s so clever.
‘Something That Needs Nothing’ begins with this;
“In an ideal world, we would have been orphans. We felt like orphans and we felt deserving of the pity that orphans get, but embarrassingly enough, we had parents. I even had two.”
I think that gives the flavour of all the pieces, the narrator telling us something personal, a little strange and yet it feels like truth.
On the down side the voice sounds the same no matter who the narrator is supposed to be, but it is an intriguing and eminently readable voice!
There is a slight unevenness to the quality of the stories, I thought some much more effective than others, but it is good, it’s thought provoking, fun and witty. And it turns out that Miranda July is talented and sparkly and thoroughly deserving of her publications and I am just jealous!