This book was a mix that felt both familiar and absolutely incredibly wrong. It was a bit like drinking a colorful, fruity-looking smoothie only to find out it was entirely composed of foods—tomatoes, salmon, maybe some pickle juice—that definitely shouldn’t be in a smoothie. It was equally interesting and disgusting. There were atrociously dislikable characters, normal situations that were made to seem tantalizing, and dreadfully honest details.
With a majority of these stories, (“The Shared Patio,” “Majesty,” “This Person,” “Something That Needs Nothing,” “The Boy From Lam Kien,” “How To Tell Stories to Children”) we have a very similar protagonist: a person who has no sense of self and needs other people to sustain their happiness. July’s characters tend to tell the story of someone else, someone that her protagonist needs. Obsession and fixation is a theme in this collection. She enhances this theme and this character type in many ways. Her protagonists were often unnamed, for example, therefore prioritizing the other character and diminishing the self. She also does some different things stylistically. She often doesn’t put dialogue in quotes, taking away the “human” aspect of the words on the page. It is almost like she makes her characters to be branches of another character rather than their own tree.
However, I never felt the protagonists were passive which would often my concern with characters like these. July’s characters were lively in their un-human-ness, going extreme measures for love, ambition, acceptance. Furthermore, keeping the actions consistent with character, all or most of the characters’ actions were motivated by the supporting character and they generally a negative trajectory. The only downfall with this aspect of her writing was that it made the stories blur together because her characters often felt like the same people.
However, overall, Miranda July has created a daring and innovative tornado of narrative with this book. She depicts emotions that are uncomfortable but necessary. With detailing of the human condition that is both jarring and sharp, she crawls inside us, makes home in our intestines, and prods at our organs. While reading each of these stories, you will feel sickly, congested, a little morose. But after, there will be rebirth.