She didn’t think about putting a book together, though, until 2005. Worn out from the press tour for Me and You and Everyone We Know, July (who now lives in Los Angeles with her boyfriend, director Mike Mills) found herself blocked: “I felt so self-conscious from that year of talking about myself so much. It really screwed me creatively.” She returned to some stories she’d written years earlier, fretting over their quality. But “it suddenly occurred to me that of all the things I could do, finishing this book was probably the best use of my time,” says July. “Everything I wrote seemed terrible,” she recalls, but she made herself continue.
It’s a good thing she did. If the territory in No One Belongs Here More Than You seems familiar, her treatment of it is different, less coolly twee (one influence seems to be Denis Johnson, another chronicler of American loserdom who could hardly be accused of fetishizing quirk). There is a marked new maturity at work in these stories—a determination not just to chronicle her characters’ obsessions and idiosyncrasies, but also to understand the purpose they serve. July is still interested in longing, but it’s the dark, inarticulate heart of longing she’s after now. “What happens when you get rid of all of longing’s disguises?” she asks. “Is it really that you want the thing so badly, or do you just enjoy wanting it?”
Has the debate been settled? (Are indie taste debates ever settled?) No, but this round goes to July.