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1 May 2024

Miranda July Q&A: “You have to feel the body’s needs as if you were a plant”

The American film-maker and author on avoiding “scarcity mindset” and how to be efficient (but not annoying).

By New Statesman

Miranda July was born in Vermont in 1974. She is a screenwriter, actress, author and film director. Her work includes the short-story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You, the novel The First Bad Man and the film Kajillionaire.

What’s your earliest memory?

My brother screaming “She’s peeing on me!” We shared a bed at that time and I guess I accidentally peed on him in my sleep.

Who are your heroes?

As a child Annie was a pretty big deal to me because she was the star of the show and so loved by her adopted, rich dad. Now there are so many heroes. My friend Isabelle Albuquerque, the sculptor, is a hero of mine. So kind but so not boring. 

What book last changed your thinking?

Trans+: Love, Sex, Romance, and Being You by Katherine Gonzales and Karen Rayne. There hasn’t been a ton of new thought about sex – not gender and sexuality but actual sex: what it is, what it can be. This book is really for therapists working with trans patients, but it’s obvious that this is where all the new paradigms are going to come from. A real gift to us all.

What would be your Mastermind specialist subject?

The most efficient way to do something (which isn’t the same thing as the quickest way of doing something). I can go deep with you and help you understand how you are making things harder for yourself. And I would not be at all annoying! Just 100 per cent helpful. 

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In which time and place, other than your own, would you like to live?

The time before Christianity took over; when women led the way and everyone was doing rituals to engage with their fear of death.

Who would paint your portrait?

Ali Liebegott, she is a writer who also paints. A poem as a portrait would also be acceptable.

What’s your theme tune?

The song that the band in the town square plays in Groundhog Day. I am generally humming this to myself.

What political figure, past or present, do you look up to?

Carolee Schneemann. Her heterosexuality and sexuality in general was an important part of her relentless, embodied feminist churning and ground-breaking.

What’s the best piece of advice you’ve ever received?

With my therapist’s help I’m trying to notice when I slip into scarcity mindset, which is every other moment.

What’s currently bugging you?

That scarcity mindset. It really gets into everything. There is no moment that can’t be anxiously hurried through while wishing you were doing something else or else dreading what is to come. Or torn between options, never understanding that they are both good.

What single thing would make your life better?

The scarcity mindset, on the other hand,  isn’t the hardest thing to get out of, once you notice. Noticing is really the only hard part, then it sort of melts away. But to notice you have to be in your body, a body with needs. You have to feel the needs as if you were a plant. Does it need water? Does it need more sun? Less sun? Is it tired? Is its jaw clenched?

When were you happiest?

I’m happiest just tooling around with my girlfriend; lounge in bed, breakfast somewhere sunny, maybe go to an estate sale, a movie in the early evening.

Are we all doomed?

Seems like it but I think there might be some interesting twists before the end.

Miranda July’s new novel “All Fours” is published by Canongate on 16 May 2024

[See also: Jah Wobble Q&A: “Evil spirits shattered my parking sensors”]

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This article appears in the 01 May 2024 issue of the New Statesman, Labour’s Forward March