Ryan Chartrand

Miranda July – the jack-of-all-creative-trades who wrote, directed and starred in 2005’s “Me and You and Everyone We Know,” a quirky indie film that received the Cam‚ra d’Or award in Cannes, among other industry nods – has accomplished yet another artistic feat: She has published her first collection of short stories.

The aptly titled “No One Belongs Here More Than You” is a compilation of 16 short stories, many of which have previously been published in such well-known magazines as “The New Yorker,” “The Paris Review” and “Harper’s.” The book was released May 15, 2007.

The work as a whole, and each piece in particular, is an eccentric yet poignant glimpse into human existence. And, like her other artistic endeavors (and there have been many from this up-and-coming, ber-talented artist), July crafts her stories by weaving the mundane with the quirky.

For example, in “The Swim Team,” a woman recalls, in an attempt to win back a former boyfriend, a memory she wouldn’t convey to him while they were together. Cash-strapped, young and alone, she once taught three elderly people in a small Nevada town how to swim on her kitchen floor, she remembers.

But it is only in retrospect that she realizes that sharing this intimate secret could have possibly made a difference: “If I had thought this would be at all interesting to you I would have told you earlier, and maybe we would still be going out.”

In another story, “Making Love in 2003,” a writer fresh out of college goes in search of a former counselor (who just so happens to be Madeleine L’Engle’s husband) who saw a potential book idea in the young woman’s past. We are told of her love affair with a shadow (yup, a shadow) as a 15-year-old. When she decides she wants a real boyfriend, though, the youth learns that it is “a terrible mistake to let go of something wonderful for something real.”

These stories, as well as most of the others in July’s 201-page tome, twist and turn in seemingly obscure directions until ending in a bittersweet finale.

And, although each piece may seem disparate from the next, July’s distinct sense of humor, unconventional subject matter (including an unabashed use of sexuality) and focus on the loneliness and failure to communicate the modern world promises ensures that there is some sort of fluidity.

At times, it’s easy to confuse the hermetic musings of July’s main characters, be it the old leather purse-maker who has never experienced love but begins to fantasize about a co-worker’s non-existent pubescent sister, or the middle-aged woman trapped in a dead-end and sexually devoid marriage, with July herself

(for those familiar with her, that is).

The characters – like July herself, as one can only assume – are all slightly awkward yet (thankfully) emotionally aware and thoughtful.

Though her writing is straight forward and concise, her voice, however poetic and creative it may be, has a sort of consistency that can be unnerving and monotonous at times; each story, though different, has the same familiar underlying tone.

But this is not enough to take away from July’s latest artistic achievement.

Through her creative fiction, July proves that she can somehow appeal to anyone and that yes, no one does belong here more than you because, as odd as her stories may initially seem, we all have had (or will have, or will know someone who knows someone who has had) similar experiences to her characters.

For more information on “No One Belongs Here More Than You,” check out July’s custom-made book Web site at www.noonebelongsheremorethanyou.com. A glimpse at the out-of-the-box, interactive Web format itself (seriously, it features hand-written messages July scribbled across her refrigerator and stove top) is worth the time.

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