‘Something That Needs Nothing’/ Making Love in 2003’ by Miranda July

“In an ideal world, we would have been orphans.” Two sad, strange and brilliant stories about eviscerating loneliness. One involves a stripper in an itchy wig, hopelessly in love with her callous best friend; the other, intensely and almost defiantly twee and weird, involves an intergalactic dark blob that deflowers the narrator. July writes with a mordant directness that conveys great emotional depth and complexity.

First published in The New Yorker, September 2006 and available online here. Collected in No one belongs here more than you, Canongate, 2007

‘Roy Spivey’ by Miranda July

‘The longer I stood there, the longer I had to stand there. It was intricate and exponential.’

Miranda July is my guilty short story pleasure. At first I snobbishly felt she wasn’t challenging enough; no puzzles to solve or complex narratives to decode. But then I realised stories can just give you joy. July specialises in presenting imperfect interactions between awkward people in a warm, judgement-free way that makes social apocalypse funny. In ‘Roy Spivey’, an ordinary woman – a self-confessed ‘pushover’ with anxiety issues – ends up sitting on a plane next to a ‘Hollywood heartthrob’. She watches him sleep, he spills gossip about his famous wife, he Febreezes her when she gets sweaty, they spend the flight having ‘the conversation that is specifically about everything’ and then, at his initiation, they bite each other. They hold hands as the plane lands. He gives her his private number, which she never calls, until it’s too late (“I looked at the number and felt a tidal swell of loss. I had waited too long”). The audio version of this, read by David Sedaris on the New Yorker Podcast, is perfection.

In The Book of Other People (Penguin, 2007)