Magazine article The Spectator

Short but Neat

Magazine article The Spectator

Short but Neat

Article excerpt

NO ONE BELONGS HERE MORE THAN YOU by Miranda July Canongate, £9.99, pp. 205, ISBN 9781841959306 £7.99 (plus £2.45 p&p) 0870 429 6655

Short-story compilations are a tricky beast. For writers, publishers and readers alike they all too frequently prove unsatisfying. Those who've mastered the form draw their stories together in a tapestry of narrative voice, social milieu and location to create a cohesive whole from standalone parts. Such writers, from William Trevor and Susan Hill to Russell Banks and Raymond Carver, have built successful careers from recognising this truth. With her début collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, Miranda July follows firmly in their footsteps, especially Carver's. This is blue-collar America brought to life in a pointillist fashion, achieved through the accumulated impact of small moments gathered together.

July has already made a name for herself as a performance artist and creator of You, Me and Everyone We Know, a cinematic existential love story. Her down-at-heel world is one of low-rent apartments, go-nowhere jobs and desperate relationships, all played out in a sprawling West Coast landscape. She blends her own trippie vision into this gritty realism. Flights of fancy, imagined lovers and drug hazes permeate the various narratives.

Her approach might sound worryingly postmodern: the kind of jazzy pyrotechnics offered up at Shoreditch 'poetry slams' by guys named Torn. But worry not, this is writing from a considered and engaging new talent. These well-defined tales, though experimental on occasion, prove to be literary sugar cubes: sweet, condensed, refined. …

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