This enchanting collection of short stories (many of them previously published elsewhere) show Miranda July's fascinating perspective, sensitivity, wit and scope of understanding with edginess and vivacity. It confirms what I already thought of her from seeing her film Me and You and Everyone We Know - that she has incredible insight and comprehension of human psyche - and a unique creative voice in her writing.
Every story is touching, deeply personal and often heart-wrenching or hilarious. She always writes in the first person, I notice - possibly a habit carried over from acting? Anyway, her characters tend to delve into fantasy realms in their heads, to avoid the harsh brunt of reality. In one story, a middle-aged man ignores the gay come-on of a colleague by fantasising about said colleague's (non-existant) underage sister. In another, a woman constructs a romance in her head with her epileptic Korean neighbour. One of my favourites tells the story of a girl who is "fucked" by a "dark shape" as a teenager, develops a relationship with the shape and is therefore unable to date actual men. When the dark shape stops visiting her in the night, she breaks her silence and people think she was sexually abused by a family member. She then recognises her 'shape' in the eyes of one of her teenage special needs pupils, and they develop a relationship. All of the stories broke my heart in one way or another - July has a way of delving into the deepest darkest recesses of her characters' minds, and pulling out such profundity it's sometimes scary.
Overall, it made me question our classifications of 'sane' and 'normal' - from reading her narratives it seems everyone is a little bit freaky, everyone has their neurosis... and from this stems the idea that the public world is just one huge mask behind which we all sit twitching with our individual personality tics. I love July for setting me on this train of thought - it's so interesting and one she explores so fearlessly in her work - film, writing, performance or otherwise. This is a gem of book, I urge you to read it and laugh and cry and laugh.