“These delightful stories do that essential-but-rare story thing: they surprise. They skip past the quotidian, the merely real, to the essential, and do so with a spirit of tenderness and wonder that is wholly unique. They are (let me coin a phrase) July-esque, which is to say: infused with wonder at the things of the world.” —George Saunders, author of Tenth of December
Award-winning filmmaker and performing artist Miranda July brings her extraordinary talents to the page in a startling, sexy, and tender collection. In these stories, July gives the most seemingly insignificant moments a sly potency. A benign encounter, a misunderstanding, a shy revelation can reconfigure the world. Her characters engage awkwardly—they are sometimes too remote, sometimes too intimate. With great compassion and generosity, July reveals their idiosyncrasies and the odd logic and longing that govern their lives. No One Belongs Here More Than You is a stunning debut, the work of a writer with a spectacularly original and compelling voice.
No One Belongs Here More Than You Reading Group Guide
Discussion Questions: 1. Many of the characters in Miranda July's stories are lonely, vulnerable and tentative, yet clearly the intent of the author is not to expose or ridicule them but to make them sympathetic to the reader. Are there characters in these stories who unexpectedly win your heart? Are there some whose behavior you cannot understand? 2. In The Shared Patio, the narrator explains that telling Vincent Chang "it's not your fault" was "really the only thing I had ever wanted to say to anyone, and be told" (pg. 7). What does she mean by this? 3. In The Swim Team, "Maria" tells Kelda that resisting putting her face into the bowl of water is "the body telling you it doesn't want to die" (pg. 16). What is it that divides the three elderly people in this story to sign up for swimming lessons? 4. The narrator in Majesty educates people on earthquake safety, engaging her own fears. And she dreams of Prince William? Yet she says "Life is just this way, broken, and I am crazy to hope for something else" (pg. 31), why does she have this dream? Is there a strange optimism in Miranda July's stories? 5. What does The Man on the Stairs represent? Why does the narrator think about the friends she dislikes and the boy at the gas station when she first hears him coming towards her room? Instead of waking Kevin or calling for help, why does she get out of bed and face him by herself? 6. "We do terrible things, we make wars, we kill out of greed. So who are we to say how to love" (pg. 43). Does the narrator in The Sister truly believe his argument for preferring teenage girls, or is this a rationalization that allows him to continue his behavior? When does he first realize Blanca doesn't actually exist? And why does he acquiesce to Victor? 7. What is the "dark shape" in Making Love in 2003? As an adult, why does the narrator believe this darkness has been transformed into her student, Stephen Krause? After discovering he has another girlfriend, why does she write "Peace" on the chalkboard? 8. In Mon Plaisir, what is the significance of Carl and the narrator practicing Buddhism, tai chi, macrobiotic diets, and favoring only things that are "MEANINGFUL" (pg. 148)? 9. In Birthmark, why does the narrator regret her decision to remove her "stain?" What did this mark represent to both her and others? When it reappears, why does her husband believe she'll finally want to have a child with him? 10. When and why does the relationship change between Deb and Lyon in How to Tell Stories to Children? Do you consider their family relationship in the best interest of the three adults, or the child? If her eyes are "triumphant" (pg. 201) when she brings Ed Borger home, what is Lyon trying to win? 11. In Something That Needs Nothing, "Gwen" noticed "We were always getting away with something, which implied that someone was always watching us, which meant we were not alone in this world" (pg. 75). Several of the characters in other stories also mention the idea of someone looking over them. Is this a way of assuring loneliness? 12. Are there any overarching themes that link these stories together? Did you find connections between the characters -- do they occupy similar worlds? 13. Discuss the sense of loneliness in this collection. Which characters feel isolated from the rest of society? Is this their choice? Do any of them change?
Enhancing Your Book Club Tips: 1. Not only is Miranda July an award-winning author, she's also an accomplished filmmaker and performer. Before discussing No One Belongs Here More Than You, watch her movie Me and You and Everyone We Know. 2. To find out more information about Miranda July's projects, visit her website at: www.mirandajuly.com. 3. Miranda and artists Harold Fletcher created a participatory website: http://learningtoloveyoumore.com/ Visit it and share what you thought with your bookclub!
Miranda July is a filmmaker, artist, and writer. Her most recent book is The First Bad Man, a novel. July’s collection of stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You, won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and has been published in twenty-three countries. Her writing has appeared in The Paris Review, Harper’s, and The New Yorker; It Chooses You was her first book of nonfiction. She wrote, directed and starred in The Future and Me and You and Everyone We Know—winner of the Camera d’Or at the Cannes Film Festival and a Special Jury Prize at Sundance. July’s participatory art works include the website Learning to Love You More (with artist Harrell Fletcher), Eleven Heavy Things (a sculpture garden created for the Venice Biennale), New Society (a performance), and Somebody (a messaging app created with Miu Miu.) She is currently working on a new feature film. Raised in Berkeley, California, July lives in Los Angeles.
"These stories are incredibly charming, beautifully written, frequently laugh-out-loud funny, and even, a dozen or so times, profound. Miranda July is a very real writer, and has one of the most original voices to appear in fiction in many years. Fans of Lorrie Moore should rub this book all over themselves -- she's got that perfect balance of humor and pathos. There has been no more enjoyable and promising a debut collection in many a moon." -- Dave Eggers
"These delightful stories do that essential-but-rare story thing: they surprise. They skip past the quotidian, the merely real, to the essential, and do so with a spirit of tenderness and wonder that is wholly unique. They are (let me coin a phrase) July-esque, which is to say: infused with wonder at the things of the world." -- George Saunders, author of In Persuasion Nation
"Miranda July's is a beautiful, odd, original voice -- seductive, sometimes erotic, and a little creepy, too." -- David Byrne
"A woman gives swimming lessons in her kitchen -- of course! Miranda July can make anything seem normal in these truly original stories. She has first-rate comic timing and a generous view of the human condition. Maybe best of all, there's joy here, too, often where you would not expect to find it." -- Amy Hempel, author of The Collected Stories of Amy Hempel