The Sister begins like most of the stories in No one belongs here more than you, with a nameless narrator in mid conversation with their audience. The difference here is that the narrator is a man, an old man in fact. I was interested to see how Miranda July dealt with a male’s voice, I’ve always been interested in writing for the opposite sex. While July does an excellent job of capturing the inner monologue of her female characters, I think she falls short when dealing with her masculine characters.
I say that, in part, because I assumed the narrator was female at the opening of the story. It sounds like a girl. Maybe that’s because every short in this collection is told in a feminine voice, and it’s something that I expected completely, but there was no strong indicator that the protagonist was a man. Of course, as is the case with most of the things I am initially annoyed with in July’s stories, I think that was the point.
In The Sister, a friend of the narrator promises to introduce him to his little sister. The narrator goes to an AIDs fundraiser to meet her, but she isn’t there. He goes to meet her parents over dinner, but she isn’t there. Finally, he goes to his friend’s house to meet her, but they never show up. It’s all very witty, actually, because you come to learn that the friend is gay. And here is where the story gets bad, or if anything, rushed.
Victor brought his arms around me and I felt sick in my stomach and my cock felt sick, too. It felt feverish and painful and I rubbed it just to clear my head. Victor rubbed it, too.
Miranda July usually creates stories that fit well within their medium. The Sister in my opinion, feels smushed. It’s a good story with intriguing ideas, it’s all very broad, so broad in fact that I think it needs to be longer. Sure, this may be a point of preference, but I think the story behind The Sister is too big for just one short story, and I think that shows in the writing.
All of that is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the story. I think that it was very witty and well layered, even impressively so, especially as it’s the story of an older man realizing he’s gay, and that it’s written by a young woman. If anything, Miranda July has the ability to write as herself in other people’s shoes, and I think that’s something rare and I think that’s something magnificent.