September 2007

Arts & Letters

‘No One Belongs Here More Than You’ by Miranda July

By Zora Simic

Lonely people suit short stories. Uneventful lives punctuated with occasional incident are easily delineated, revealing poignancy and even humour. In the hands of virtuosos such as Alice Munro and Lorrie Moore, the fortunes of the marginal or merely ordinary make for exhilarating reading which confirms that size does not always matter. With lesser talents, the minutiae of small worlds can be reduced to cultivated curiosities bereft of drama, comedy or insight. I feared this fate for the American artist Miranda July, whose film Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) struck me as twee and sporadically artful. This was misplaced worry. July’s debut collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You, has renewed my passion for short stories.

The title refers to no particular story, and instead stakes a general claim for those among us who feel we belong nowhere. Most of the pieces have been published before, some of them in the New Yorker and the Paris Review. They hang together beautifully here, even the small oddball ‘The Moves’, in which a father’s legacy for his daughter is his erotic repertoire. July fancies discomforting scenarios; each story makes the implausible or unlikely utterly convincing. An old man pops ecstasy. A young woman gives swimming lessons on her lounge-room floor. A child is accidentally raised by her father’s best friend; her parents are too self-absorbed to notice.

July’s writing is disarming, but never gratuitous. It is often sex (with other people or alone) that pushes her protagonists towards emotional truths, fleeting fulfilment or eternal frustration. The most startling and memorable passages - and each story has at least one - focus on the vagaries of human sexuality. The longest piece, ‘Something That Needs Nothing’, is the strongest, packing a lifetime of passion, longing and sordid experience into one teenager’s journey. Abandoned by her best friend and sometime lover, the unnamed heroine pays the rent by taking off her clothes. What she learns is that the “world is not safer than I thought; on the contrary it was so dangerous that my practically naked self fit right in”.

September 2007

From the front page

Illustration by Jeff Fisher

Planting hope

A community gardening program is bringing hope to asylum seekers

Scott free

The rorting revelations continue, but who will be held properly accountable?

Image [detail] of Agency, by William Gibson

Days of future passed: William Gibson’s ‘Agency’

The cyberpunk pioneer’s latest novel continues his examination of the present from the perspective of a post-apocalyptic future

Image from ‘Extinction Studies’

Wildlife’s whispered traces: ‘Extinction Studies’

Lucienne Rickard’s durational art performance at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery reckons with extinct species


In This Issue

Words: Shane Maloney | Illustration: Chris Grosz

HMAS Melbourne & HMAS Voyager

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

El pollo loco

Illustration by Jeff Fisher.

Full house

‘Linda Marrinon: Let Her Try’ by Chris McAuliffe


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Days of future passed: William Gibson’s ‘Agency’

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Hanging works by the two masters together highlights their artistic rivalry and mutual influence

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‘A Couple of Things Before the End’ by Sean O’Beirne

The Australian author’s debut story collection confidently converts the linguistic detritus of our era into something of lasting value

Utagawa Yoshimori, The Tongue-cut Sparrow [detail]

‘Japan supernatural’

The Art Gallery of NSW’s examination of Japan’s centuries-long artistic traditions depicting the spirit world and the macabre

Cover of ‘The Topeka School’

‘The Topeka School’ by Ben Lerner

The American author’s latest novel canvasses the seething hate speech of the burgeoning alt-right and white-boy rap battles in the Midwest


Read on

Image from ‘Extinction Studies’

Wildlife’s whispered traces: ‘Extinction Studies’

Lucienne Rickard’s durational art performance at the Tasmanian Museum and Art Gallery reckons with extinct species

Image of former prime minister Malcolm Turnbull

Turnbull’s legacy costs

The former PM’s promise to legislate a religious freedom bill has ensured the culture wars rage on

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Party of three: ‘Everything’s Gonna Be Okay’

Australian comedian Josh Thomas brings his unique brand of comedy to the classic American sitcom format

Image of Philip Glass and Phelim McDermott composing ‘Tao of Glass’

A dream within a dream: ‘Tao of Glass’

Theatremaker Phelim McDermott on his highly personal collaboration with Philip Glass


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