Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Miranda July in the New Yorker

It would be a lot of fun to hate Miranda July: after all, she's wildly successful in several genres and younger even than my little sister. Also, her book has the Eggersian imprimatur on its back cover. (Why oh why oh why?)

However, I don't hate her. Her story, "Roy Spivey," in the fiction issue of the NYer is all right. It's about the effect on a woman's life of having once sat next to a celebrity on the plane. It has some insightful moments and is gently funny. If you have ever read any Raymond Carver, though, you will see the name RAYMOND CARVER flash before your eyes as you read the the last lines of the story. It could almost be an exact quote. That's a bit distracting.

The reason I don't love Miranda July's writing, though, is that it has an incredibly small emotional range. I imagine her territory on the map of human experience as a little patio plopped down where wistful naivete and humorous popular culture overlap. She owns that patio. Raymond Carver, actually, had a similarly limited though mostly different range (perhaps they shared a driveway?) and one of the really tragic things about his death was that he seemed to be just breaking out of it into a new level of greatness when he died.

I really liked her movie You and Me and Everyone We Know, because it was surprising and generous and funny and had great characters (the younger child in the movie reminded JRL and me of our youngest kid, which completely and totally charmed me, of course). She does a similar thing in her fiction, though a much much smaller, lighter, and less affecting thing. Interesting factoid: her real name is Miranda Grossinger.

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