Roy Spivey by Miranda July, 2007
The magic trick:
Using a seemingly extraordinary experience to make a point about ordinary life
This story seems to be about something very specific and very special – a woman’s almost-rendezvous with a famous actor. It makes for fun reading but hardly seems like the stuff of literary lessons for the masses. That’s when Miranda July flips the script.
As the anecdote about the actor on the plane ends, she connects to other details and moments in the narrator’s life. Turns out the woman has used little secret codes in her head throughout her life to recall people, places and things. Meeting the actor on the plane was a particularly memorable experience, of course, but by connecting to the narrator’s larger life, the reader can then expand their interpretation into all kinds of ideas, including the notion that everyone keeps an interior life hidden from the world.
The story becomes less about plot and more about ideas. And that’s quite a trick on July’s part.
Over the course of my life, I’ve used the number many times. Not the telephone number, just the four. When I first met my husband, I used to whisper “four” while we had intercourse, because it was so painful. Then I learned about a tiny operation that I could have to enlarge myself. I whispered “four” when my dad died of lung cancer. When my daughter got into trouble doing God knows what in Mexico City, I said “four” to myself as I gave her my credit-card number over the phone. Which was confusing—thinking one number and saying another. My husband jokes about my lucky number, but I’ve never told him about Roy. You shouldn’t underestimate a man’s capacity for feeling threatened.