Tuesday, March 31, 2015

The First Bad Man

Cover image for The first bad man : a novelThe First Bad Man 
By Miranda July
First Scribner, 2015. 276 pages.

Miranda July is a celebrated author, filmmaker, actress, visual and performing artist--basically there isn't a creative field she doesn't excel in. So I was curious to read her first novel (her previous publications have been collections of short stories and several non-fiction books). The First Bad Man is the story of Cheryl, a high strung, eccentric woman in her mid-40's who lives alone, abiding by her own very particular quirks and habits. Suddenly here world is thrown into chaos when her bosses require that she take in their wayward daughter who they cannot control. 21-year-old Clee refuses to abide by any of Cheryl's rules and quickly takes to mocking, insulting and eventually physically bullying Cheryl in her own home. In an even more bizarre turn of events this unhealthy dynamic leads Cheryl to love and the role of mother that she has been chasing since she was nine years old.

This is a very modern book reminiscent in some ways of Dave Eggers, David Foster Wallace or George Saunders. The circumstances and characters feel like hyperbolic versions of reality, and the circumstance too bizarre to be real, and yet achieving in the end a core message that is very relate-able. The writing is filled with hilarious and heartbreaking prose, and July is a master at creating a vivid and detailed world. There is a fair amount of adult content in this novel, and it definitely not for every reader, but if you enjoy somewhat avant garde, literary fiction, this book is for you.


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