Miranda July - It Chooses You (4 stars)

Charming miscellany of human oddness from the Californian Renaissance Woman

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Miranda July - It Chooses You

(Canongate)

It’s OK to be a bit weird around Miranda July. Or have anxieties, or a tendency to procrastinate, or a habit of lying in order to be polite. It’s all fine with her; in fact, she’d probably prefer it. July created her first play as a teenager, about her real penpal friendship with a jailed murderer, then wrote films and novels, starring in her first movie, Me and You and Everyone We Know, which won the Special Jury Prize at 2005’s Sundance Festival.

Much of her inspiration comes from real encounters; she grew up in California and spent her twenties shoplifting and dabbling in performance art in Portland, Oregon, no doubt inspiring the Pacific Northwest oddities that populate her short story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You. But in 2009, when this book was written, July had run out of creative juice. She had a film script to finish (for The Future, recently in cinemas) but had hit a wall. To prise herself away from her computer, she started responding to classified ads in a weekly PennySaver leaflet. Her meetings with a facially-scarred leopard collector, a tadpole-selling schoolboy and a daydreaming housewife who collects photo albums of a couple she’s never met, all showcase July’s trademark ability to home in, guided-missile style, on quirk.

The fact she’s probably omitted the more ‘normal’ and therefore less interesting people she meets is beside the point. What matters is July’s reactions to them – although teen Miranda would have befriended the tagged criminal selling kids’ books, now ‘I wanted to grab the hand of myself at 16, and the hand of my future daughter, and run.’ A natural nosey parker, July’s housecalls let her expertly join the dots between casual autobiography, freakshow awe, and sweetly reassuring human truths.

Making-of-the-book video #2: Andrew

Making-of-the-book video #5: Joe

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