Creative writing usually has this disconnect, where the audience and author are separated by text. Miranda July‘s The Swim Team kind of steps around that. The story feels so intimate and conversational that, while reading, I often felt awkward and uncomfortable. Similar to that feeling you get when someone you don’t know that well tells you more about themselves than they should. It doesn’t help that, when casting the characters from her stories in my mind, July usually acts the lead.
Much like The Shared Patio, The Swim Team is told from the perspective of a young and somewhat socially inefficient woman. She tells a story to her ex boyfriend (his role is filled by the reader). “This is a story I wouldn’t tell you when I was your girlfriend” opens this one-sided dialogue. She, the unnamed protagonist, is speaking directly to you.
The narrator describes her time in Belvedere, where she befriends a small group of octogenarian. They all meet at her apartment to learn how to swim, even though there isn’t a pool or sizable body of water to practice in. Instead, they all just paddle around on her kitchen floor. She tells you that she misses them, especially now that they are all certainly dead.
What I love about this story isn’t the story so much as it’s what the story accomplishes. Even though it’s very short, it’s also very active. I don’t believe what my fake ex-girlfriend has told me, I don’t believe that a group of the elderly practiced back strokes in her kitchen. I think it’s a lie, and I think that’s the point.
Miranda July’s collection is called No one belongs here more than you. I assumed, as I judged the book by its cover, that the decision to leave the title lowercase was a matter of aesthetics. The more I read in the collection, however, the more I think that the title is a statement, a grammatically correct statement. July is writing to you, the reader. As an author and from July’s perspective, no one belongs here more than you.
I predict that the shorts collected in this book will grow increasingly awkward. I can’t wait.