by Hannah Bressler
1. Her story telling feels fresh. I don't know anyone else who writes about loneliness of socially strange people trying to form intense connections to other, equally strange people.
Her characters are so strange and they don't apologize for themselves. Maybe she believes her readers are maybe just as strange, or at least are very capable of empathizing with the strange, lonely characters she invents.
2. She is bold. It's as if no place in literature is off limits with her. She would take you anywhere, even uncomfortable places because she wants you to come with her. It's generous, it's creepy, and it's intimate.
Maybe her type of humanity isn't the kind of thing you would admit to your mother or even book club. But I read "No One Belongs Here More Than You" (her book of short stories) and "The First Bad Man" (her most recent novel) in a matter of hours, not even days. I couldn't stop reading her overly personal tone, her character's intense introspection, or the humor and awkwardness of the interactions. It's as if she invited you into her head to say "See? I knew you'd like it here."
3. It's not only her 1st person character voice that is so interesting, it's also the inherent feeling of shyness, the intense fantasies, the other-worldliness of her storytelling. It's as if each person's little coping mechanisms on their way to human connection are very relevant to her. And, why not? Even a character's waves of anxious thoughts, July is able to make those interesting.
4. Miranda July writes about love in many forms; Queer love, Straight love, Baby love, Rescue love, all kinds love. But the kind she excels at writing about is Love with a capitol L, the kind of super-power fantasy love that might solve all the problems of your life if it ever became a physical reality, but is mostly in your head. As a reader I adore getting to wander around inside this kind of story. Even when a main character seems to know the Love will not follow through, she runs hard with that dream anyway. It's an intense experience for the reader, knowing the incoming tragedy, and letting the hope dissolve slowly, into a more realistic kind of experience.
5. I think July must have a lot of first-hand knowledge about loneliness and love. She once called herself, before her marriage "the most alone woman who ever existed." ("It Chooses You", Miranda July, p.2 ) She explores loneliness deeply, even the spooky kind of loneliness that makes people do desperate things. July goes the way of Marina Abramovic who says, "Mostly I will do the work I am afraid of. If I'm really afraid of (an) idea, this is exactly the point I have to go." 2
6. Her relationship stories feel hyper-realistic; neediness, aggression, alienation, need for independence, and dependence. A lot of her stories reimagine the idea of family. They retell the story of who to trust, or how badly we love someone. She is a precursor to artists like Shelia Heti (author of the genre-pushing novel "How Should A Person Be?) and Lena Dunham (creator of the HBO show "Girls" and the film "Tiny Furniture".) All of these artists embrace oddness and ugliness to show more vulnerability. All of them show us a kind of intimacy that challenges our stereotypes of how women bond with each other. And all of them tell the story of what it feels like to desperately love a destructive person.
7. The last reason to love Miranda July is that her writing is spectacular. Her voice is clear, thoughtful, and hilarious. She has an ear for realistic dialogue, a way of telling awkwardness without over telling it, and a way of noticing physical details without getting into really boring descriptions of a scene. If you're going out (or getting online) to buy her books right now you might as well turn off your cell phone and order take-out food all weekend. You're not going to need anything else. This art will absorb you.
Editor's note: Although this Artist Feature Review focuses on her fiction work, Miranda July is also an accomplished playwright, actor, film maker, interviewer, and non-fiction writer.