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

An unavoidable recession

The pandemic got us in, the treasurer must get us out

Child's illustration

The screens that ate school

What do we really know about the growing presence of Google, Apple, Microsoft and more in the education system?

Image of protest against police violence in Minneapolis, Minnesota on May 26, 2020

Black Lives Matter

Australia should draw lessons from the riots in the US

Image of Australians queuing at Centrelink in Brisbane.

Moral bankruptcy

Robodebt stemmed from the false ideological division between the deserving and undeserving poor, but the government still clings to moralistic language


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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The Australian writer’s lyrical consideration of our relationship with whales is a new and ambitious kind of nature writing

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Read on

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Moral bankruptcy

Robodebt stemmed from the false ideological division between the deserving and undeserving poor, but the government still clings to moralistic language

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It’s about time

The High Court’s landmark ruling on the ‘Palace Papers’ is a win for Australian social democracy

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Something mythic

For Robyn Davidson, her acclaimed memoir ‘Tracks’ was an act of freedom whose reception hemmed her in

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The virus is the latest excuse for governments to slash and burn the individual rights of prisoners


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