‘How To Tell Stories To Children’ by Miranda July

July, Miranda 2007a

How To Tell Stories To Children by Miranda July, 2007

The magic trick:

Extending the narrative over 20 years

I picked up Miranda July’s story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You, and I have to say it was a struggle to get started. Every story I read annoyed me too much to get beyond the first page – until this one. I really, really liked this story.

Ironically enough, given what I just said, the early going of this one kind of annoyed me too. Great, I thought, we get to see all the cool, cute interactions this awkward/charming hipster woman has with a little kid. Kewl!

But I kept reading, and the story kept going. It wasn’t a day in the life, or a week in the life, or even a year in the life. The story tracks a good 20 years in the characters’ lives. The plot twists in surprising ways. The characters grow and change and don’t change in interesting ways. The narrator becomes less a hipster stereotype and more a well-rounded person (in truth, she probably always was; I was just bringing some baggage to the story from the start). In all, what felt like a vapid piece of precious nonsense grew into an incredibly rich story. It just took 20 years to make it happen. And that’s quite a trick on July’s part.

The selection:

If there was a decent kid movie, we would see that after dinner, but usually, we went to the second-run theater, where we saw things like McCabe & Mrs. Miller, or Bonnie and Clyde or Shampoo. We were massive Warren Beatty fans. I worried at first about the sex and violence, but Lyon discovered that as long as the movie was made before 1986, she could take it.

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