Miranda July has a disarming name that sits well with the artfully intense photo of her on the jacket. Normally these things aren't worth pointing out, but there's enough in this collection of whatever it is that makes her picture so distinctive that you might ponder it while considering a couple of things: Some of her writing has a tendency towards repetition, that seems to grasp at some sense of naivety. ("I still felt summery; I had a summery tableau in mind" or "Vincent was on the shared patio. I'll tell you about this patio. It is shared".) And in places her sexual frankness starts to resemble the unsolicited whisperings of a pervert on a bus. But skip a couple of the stories, squint a little here and there, and this becomes a very interesting collection.
In "Making Love in 2003", a young woman describes visiting her former lecturer in the belief that he'll help her set up life as a novelist. Having written for a year with his business card taped to her computer, she turns up for an appointment at his home with everything she owns packed in the back of her car. He doesn't show up – instead she meets his wife, a famous author. The man turns out to be a womanising wretch, but the strength of this story is that it doesn't end with that revelation; this is where it really begins. We learn of a dark spirit that the narrator once encountered and was promised she'd meet again. The result is a beguiling, disturbing tale that leaves its own version of needlepoint on the reader's imagination.
"Majesty" is just as intriguing. A middle-aged woman fantasises about meeting Prince William. "That night I made a list of ways to meet him in reality: Go to his school to give a lecture on earthquake safety. Go to the bars near his school and wait for him."
Reading these stories makes you wonder what July will write next: something still tainted by quirks, or something consistently and unnervingly true?