I feel absolutely ecstatic, wired, that ecstasy that is too much – I’m moving too fast to enjoy the moment, know that I must crash at some point.  This is why alcohol happens.

I was thinking, would anyone read this if it didn’t say MIRANDA JULY – No One Belongs Here More Than You at the top?  Is this why I review?

Many thoughts are leaping into my mind at once – I think part of it is the sheer exuberance generated by not having touched alcohol for over a week.  But another part of it is that I have been chewing over Miranda July’s stories of late.

She writes about people I don’t usually come across in first person narrative – strippers, losers, fat secretaries, lonely old factory workers, lonely people generally.  Throughout, there’s this yearning for connection, for meaning.  Relationships are usually disastrous and destructive, weird and restricting, non-sexual, or sexually unsatisfactory for at least one party.  Psychologically abusive, at times.  People do not live happily ever after, but they do live on, like it or not.  Have to.

I’ve always been fascinated by life’s failures – the red-faced dissolute standing outside the Royal Oak smoking at half one in the afternoon; inside the pub, you can see the racing on the TV and a few heads, not moving, not speaking.  I sometimes pathetically wish I could be there, just dissolving myself, pickling myself gradually to death.  But I know that if I tried to do it, it wouldn’t work.  I would end up getting other people involved and it would fuck up.

Those people in that pub don’t look like they have any private pain.  They don’t look capable of much thought, or much else.  They’re not, anymore.  But they did, once.  They could, once.  They don’t want to anymore.  They just want to die.

Miranda July doesn’t write a story about an alcoholic in this collection, but I can’t help feeling there’s a connection, somewhere.  Maybe I’m wrong.  What I’m driving at is that some of the people she writes about, I walk past on the street daily, without giving them a second thought.  Maybe I think, oh, she’s ugly, or, god, what a mess that guy is, or I just don’t even register them.  She writes about them.  Not much happens, externally – they drift around a very limited, circumscribed universe – but inside, they still have ambitions, dreams, fantasies, drives.  Coping mechanisms.

A secretary obsesses about little things, because there isn’t anything big in her life.  A woman daydreams about everybody she’s ever met holding a party for her, because they love her.  An older guy, who regularly fantasises about teenage girls, takes ecstasy and has a sexual experience with a male work colleague.  A lesbian couple scour the classified ads in the paper, looking for something for them.

Short story writing should be the art of turning a moment into infinity.  Some people start writing and it seems as though they can do anything with anything, never stop producing.  Use the mundane as their clay.

Once I had finished this book, my instinct was to go back to the start straight away.  That doesn’t happen very often.

I haven’t done the book justice with this review – one read wasn’t enough to really take it in, somehow.  I just want to urge anybody who reads this post to check out the book.

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