I first discovered Miranda July when she was promoting her book No One Belongs Here More Than You in 2007. The book’s site broke pretty much every rule about what I would tell you are the best practices for promoting a book online. (I mean, it’s usually ill advised to design an entire site around writing on the top of your refrigerator with dry erase markers, photographing each message as slide, and making the user click through nearly 30 pages to read the whole message.) Yet, this site remains one of the most memorable, creative and clever book sites I’ve ever seen.
I have thus amended my position to be that you can break the rules egregiously if you are as clever and talented as Miranda July. Although July’s work extends far beyond publishing—she also wrote, directed and starred in Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) and The Future (2011)—July consistently finds interesting ways to promote herself in traditional mediums.
July’s newest project is called “We Think Alone” and uses email as its medium. It’s free to sign up—just submit your email. Subscribers will receive 20 emails over 20 weeks, from collaborators like Kareem Abdul-Jabbar, Lena Dunham, Kirsten Dunst, and Sheila Heti. The project was conceived as part of a Swedish art exhibition titled “On the Tip of My Tongue.” July’s contribution through We Think Alone exists exclusively within each user’s inbox, which starts (appropriately enough) July 1st.
“I’m always trying to get my friends to forward me the emails they’ve sent to other people—to their mom, their boyfriend, their agent—the more mundane, the better,” she writes on the site. “How they comport themselves in email is so intimate, almost obscene, a glimpse of them from their own point of view. We Think Alone has given me the excuse to read my friends’ emails and the emails of some people I wish I was friends with and for better or worse, it has changed the way I see all of them.”
It’s important to note that none of the emails were written for this project, much less for the recipients. Rather, they were selected by the authors in response to July’s direction, so July points out “self-portraiture is quietly at work here.” Even more, it is interesting to isolate this particular way of communication at this point in time. “Email itself is changing, none of us use it exactly the same way we did ten years ago—in another ten years, we might not use it at all.”