Majesty – Miranda July

And this is where things get weird.

Majesty begins in the middle of conflict. It’s a good technique, especially for a short piece, and something that Miranda July does very well. It’s my favorite kind of storytelling, where the plot is mystery that you’ve got to figure out in time with pacing. In fact, I’d argue that timing and reveal are the strongest of July’s talents.

“I am not the kind of person who is interested Britain’s royal family. I’ve visited computer chat rooms full of this type of person, and they are people with small worlds, they don’t consider the long term, they aren’t concerned about the home front; they are too busy thinking about the royal family of another country.”

It’s very witty. Reasonably, a person who frequents internet chat rooms would be one with a small world, or at least, someone who would not judge other’s for having small worlds. Majesty is the story of a confused, lonely, and sexually frustrated woman. If it’s not obvious to you yet, this is a major through line in July’s work. However, this piece seems to grow in a natural progression from the other of July’s stories that I’ve read.

“And I would press his giant head against my ches, and because the yarn wasn’t quite over I would say: Ask my breasts, my forty-six-year-old breasts. And he would yell into them, muffled: Let me in, let me in! And my stomach, ask my stomach. Let me in, let me in! Get down on your knees, Your Highness, and ask my vagina, that ugly beast. Let me in, let me in, let me in.”

The unnamed narrator is so lonely, on a foundational level. July does us the service of taking us into that mind, of showing us how that thought process works. It’s absurd and it’s shameful but it’s also honest.

That’s another of July’s strengths: She is very honest. While  she obviously employes a certain amount of learned talent, there are moments where she almost purposefully steps away from writing conventions. It’s kind of exciting, to stumble into the voice of the characters speaking so honestly.

“Shit. Did you see a little brown dog run that way? Potato!

No.

Are you sure? Potato! He must have just run out. Potato!

I wasn’t paying attention.

Well, you would have seen him. Shit. Potato!

Sorry.

Jesus. Well, i you see him, grab him and bring him back over here. He’s a little brown dog, his name is Potato. Potato!”

What’s so alarming, in regards to such a fluid writing convention, is when past and present events become mingled. Near the end, the narrator remembers a conversation she had with her sister. The conversation flows right out of the scene and, for a moment, seems to be an extension of that scene. During my reading, at least, I was surprised (and relieved) when I realized that the narrator was not, well, having sex with a minor. You’ll have to read it, it’s really good.

My point is, July forfeits the staple grammatical rules that would indicated to the reader the difference between an action and a narration. It’s confusing and surprising, but I think that’s the point.

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