Tuesday, 10 July 2007

No One Belongs Here More Than Me

It must have been about two months ago. One of the four friends who read this thing (hello!) and I found ourselves in a heated debate about Little Miss Sunshine and Miranda July.

Him: That whole, look at me, I'm Miranda July, I'm so quirky- at least Little Miss Sunshine was humorous-

Her: Little Miss Sunshine was a typically written three act structure that pretended to be indie because it had the right soundtrack and caricatures of characters

(His eyes roll. Did she really just say "three act structure?")

Him: I'm not saying it's a movie that's going to change your life- I'm saying it's a fun movie. It wasn't great, but it was certainly okay.

Her: It was dreadful! It was totally pretentious!

Him: Oh and Me and her and everyone who sucks was so much better? Miranda July is all about the LA superficially whimsical image-

Her: At least her movie was different- and the perfect example, the two children-

Him: Yeah, so?

Her: I think the best way to judge a director is on how well the children are acting.

Him: The little girl in Little Miss Sunshine gave a very realistic performance, I thought.

Her: She was over acting up a storm! She was incredibly obnoxious! Whereas the boy in Me You and Everyone We Know-

Him: Was totally unrealistic. The girl in Little Miss Sunshine was over acting because children over act. She was obnoxious because children are obnoxious. So often what adults think is a good child performance, like that Buddha child in July's movie, is only a child acting the way we wish children were. But they're not- they're attention seeking, irritating, flawed human beings.

And suddenly my blood boiled. Because he'd made a very good point. Dang. But as far as the rest of the argument went, I still felt right. And suddenly I even felt personally defensive for Miranda July.

Her: Look, just because you don't like LA doesn't mean that you have to hate a good artist who comes from a bad place. Wes Anderson lives in LA as well.

Him: You know I'm right- why don't you just stop arguing? You know I'm right.

Her: You're not right, you're just not listening.

Him: (smiles, satisfied.)

But of course, I am presenting my side of the argument alone. But it left this inkling in me- was Miranda July no more than a wolf in Sheep's clothing? An insubstantial LA caricature?

No One Belongs Here More Than You is a collection of short stories just recently added to my and my partner's bookshelf. On the front cover is a woman, face down on a pillow, her hair in a perfect middle part down the back. A friend who's opinion is usually quite respectable was so passionately opposed to her, that I had started to question whether I should own this book to read it- or simply to make him angry when he came over and saw it on my bookshelf. But after my partner read a few stories, he said it was right up my alley.

I've had this inkling about July for a while- not that I loved Me You and Everyone We Know. I certainly thought it was enjoyable, and a very promising start for her career, and even pretty good, but it didn't blow me out of the water. (I suppose much the same way that my nemesis/friend felt about Little Miss Sunshine) but her stories seem to say what the film couldn't possibly. Miranda July is a rising star- yes- but most importantly she may be one of the first famous female misfits in a while.

Okay, Misfit, Odd Duck, you've heard me use all of these addages before- referring to John Guare specifically, who is less well known and therefore a cooler person to point out to my blog readers. And there are other famous misfits- Woody Allen and Wes Anderson for example- A famous misfit is more than just strange- they are so completely themselves that they'll never get away from it, no matter what and who they write or how hard they try. There is as much Miranda July in an old woman who is in love with Prince William as there is Woody Allen in a doctor who is in love with a sheep. It's as though art were a glass of water, and these artists add a few drops of themselves to anything they write- it spreads out in the glass, faintly colouring the liquid- just ever so slightly there.

Right- well I'm a bit obsessed with people like these. They are often/always my favourite writers and film makers (F Scott, Murakami and Salinger no doubt apply) because when I watch their films, or read their novels, I feel as though they have completely and totally accepted who they are - and they can't get away from it. More than accepted who they are, they can't escape who they are- I once wrote about Steve Martin on this blog- I said I'd missed his wicked ways from his youth- and worse, I feel now as though Martin has become some strange approximation, imitation of himself in later years. You see, I'll be bold here, and say that I think that this "accepting who you are" thing- no doubt tied in with a writer's voice- is psychological as well as artistic. ? I wonder if it's the path to success- not trying to be someone else. As Daniel MacIvor once said to me in an interview, "You don't have to be everything to be enough."

There's a lot of truth in what she does- I don't know, maybe it's not all great, but it's all her. And it's nice to read someone just being themselves. Writing starts with the writer, after all.


Andrew Field said...

Appropriate me will you?

Watch your back Pearson... next thing you know you'll be a minor character in an ITV sitcom.

M. said...

Sometimes things look better when you look at them differently. Here:maybe this book is not a masterpiece, but certainly it is worth a read or two even if you’re not really reading but only looking at your hands…i really don’t think Miranda July would mind.

Regan Brantley said...
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