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

Image of Prime Minister Scott Morrison during Question Time today.

Having us on

What job is the Morrison government getting on with, exactly?

Image showing Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar

Quiet desperation: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama is marked by the emotional solidarity of its teen protagonists

Image from Rebecca, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter

Airbrushed horror: Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca’

The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the nuance and ambiguity of the novel

Listening to Roberta Flack

‘First Take’, released 50 years ago, still echoes through the present


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


More in Arts & Letters

Listening to Roberta Flack

‘First Take’, released 50 years ago, still echoes through the present

Body politic: ‘Boys State’

American democracy is documented in all its gangly, acne-mottled glory

In our nature: ‘Vesper Flights’

Helen Macdonald explores how the study of animals reveals unknown aspects of ourselves

Image of OneFour rapper J Emz

The trenches of Mount Druitt: OneFour

Australia’s most infamous hip-hop act is an all-Pasifika group born of Western Sydney’s violent postcode wars


More in Noted

‘The Time of Our Lives’ by Robert Dessaix

The memoirist’s latest, surprisingly unsettling instalment

‘The Lying Life of Adults’ by Elena Ferrante

The Neapolitan author returns to characters driven by compulsions and tensions of class

Cover of ‘What Are You Going Through’

‘What Are You Going Through’ by Sigrid Nunez

The late-life author of ‘The Friend’ delivers a chastening and discursive novel of mourning

Cover of ‘Little Eyes’

‘Little Eyes’ by Samanta Schweblin (trans. Megan McDowell)

Intimacy and privacy blur as people adopt cybernetic pets inhabited remotely by others, in this disturbing speculative fiction


Read on

Image showing Sidney Flanigan as Autumn and Talia Ryder as Skylar

Quiet desperation: ‘Never Rarely Sometimes Always’

Eliza Hittman’s abortion drama is marked by the emotional solidarity of its teen protagonists

Image from Rebecca, with Kristin Scott Thomas as Mrs Danvers and Lily James as Mrs de Winter

Airbrushed horror: Ben Wheatley’s ‘Rebecca’

The new adaptation of Daphne du Maurier’s gothic tale is visually lush, but lacks the nuance and ambiguity of the novel

Former prime ministers Kevin Rudd and Malcolm Turnbull with a screenshot of Turnbull’s confirmation of signing the petition

The Corp’s bride

Despite a widely supported petition, the government is too scared to take on the Murdoch empire

Image of Yanis Varoufakis’s ‘Another Now’

Now, then: Yanis Varoufakis’s ‘Another Now’

The economist and author’s alternative future asks clarifying questions about the present


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