I asked you a couple of days ago what you are reading and it's only fair I should reciprocate! I have a fair bit of catching up to do here. Here's a start.
The book I've enjoyed most recently is far and away No-one Belongs Here More than You, Miranda July's funny, sad, startling collection of short stories that won the Frank O'Connor last year. You may remember that the book comes with different coloured covers so that you can coordinate your copy with your clothes. I bought mine via Abebooks and got a bright green copy which clashed a bit with my wardrobe. (Just read on Eric's blog that he found copies at MPH Midvalley but he doesn't say what colour.)
Often bordering on the bizarre, these 16 stories of lonely misfits, injured by life, aching for love and acceptance would really hurt to read, but the characters are survivors, buffered by their rich fantasy lives.
The protagonist of Shared Patio longs to write for a magazine advice column and the story is sprinkled with offbeat advice. She builds fantasies around her neighbour which she gets close to fulfilling when he has an epileptic fit on the shared patio one day.
In Swim Team a woman coaches a swimming team comprising old people in her apartment and without the aid of water (although she does provide them with bowls when they need to practice breathing exercises!)
A woman dreams of an erotic encounter with Prince William in Majesty and awake plots how she might meet him.
In The Sister A lonely man is set up on a date with a colleague's sister who never turns up, and turns out never to have existed. Perhaps it doesn't matter in the end.
It's hard to pick a favourite, but Something That Needs Nothing is a love story that broke my heart. This Person is about how we will always go on sabotaging ourselves is as perfect a short short story as they come, and you can read the whole thing here.
I wonder it everyone reading the book will find themselves reflected in this book. Do you feel as lonely, as out of sync with the world, as uncertain, as July's characters?
It's frightening to admit, but I do sometimes. I really do! And if you say yes too, I think I will look at you oddly (as of course you will have to look at me). Maybe this is the great unsayable - we aren't as together as we'd like the world to think we are.
But when you look at Miranda July, who successful, young and beautiful, everything her characters are not, you wonder how the hell she channels these voices!
I feel like turning the book over and beginning it all over again. This is a collection that is staying on my writing desk to stir up my slothful own muse.
Here's a video from a really fun literary event organised around the book by Strangers in Seattle, and you can hear the author reading excerpts that are bound to have you rushing out for the book.
Just make sure you coordinate clothes and handbag and shoes.