No One Belongs Here More Than You (5 stars)

Miranda July

No One Belongs Here More Than You (Canongate)


I’ll admit, I feared this book. A debut collection of short stories from an LA-based performance artist and indie filmmaker? Surely it’s going to be all pointlessly quirky characters, self-obsessed existential ennui and vacuous ponderings and interactions? Assumptions which only prove what a dumb schmuck this reviewer is, because this is the finest, most moving and funny, weird and wonderful collection of stories I’ve read in some years.

Miranda July’s extraordinary imagination and wonderful empathy for her characters blend seamlessly in these tales set in the dumbfounding world of modern relationships where hope is a beautiful but fragile thing. The ghost of dysfunction haunts the pages, and while there is plenty of strangeness it’s never quirkiness for the sake of it, rather the author pinpoints the extremes to which we’ll go to find some meaning in life. Humour and heartbreak combine brilliantly in stories like ‘Something that Needs Nothing’ about an unrequited lesbian affair, and the extraordinary ‘Ten True Things’ which tells of a secretary’s obsessive interest in her boss’ wife.

The writer’s portrayal of the paradoxes of modern life is profound in these stories which are frequently hilarious, often emotionally crushing, but always incredibly, precisely perceptive. And she saves the best til last with ‘How to Tell Stories to Children’, which manages to sum up a lifetime of maternal pain and joy in 25 pages bristling with remarkable life. A talent this original and insightful clearly didn’t come from any creative writing course production line, and deserves to be acclaimed from the rooftops.

(Doug Johnstone)

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