The First Bad Man by Miranda July

This was honestly such a weird book. I had no idea what I was expecting or why I wanted to read this but I asked for and received it for Christmas a few years back and only finally got around to reading it. The entire time it's been sitting on my shelf I swore it was non-fiction. I was very wrong.

As far as I can tell this is Miranda July's first novel, although she's written short stories before as well as numerous screenplays. The story follows a woman named Cheryl Glickman, who is middle-aged, unmarried, in a power position at her job, and has recurring sexual fantasies about a guy who's on the board at her company. Eventually her boss' angsty daughter moves in with her while she 'gets on her feet' and they begin this very bizarre, somewhat abusive, homosexual relationship.

Miranda July... that hair...

Cheryl works for a company that makes self-defense exercise type videos. The heroin in the video is 'attacked' by someone in a role play scenario and the sequence to fight off her attacker turns into a fitness routine... this in itself is weird enough. Cheryl and Clee (the boss' daughter) begin acting out these videos at their home and actually beating each other up to the point where they're both addicted to the adrenaline. It then becomes sexual. Even more weird, right? I am POSITIVE there is some underlying feminist message to this that is going completely over my head. This book was way too well-received and had too many reviews by Lena Dunham for there not to be something I'm missing here...

I really liked Cheryl's character at the beginning. While she was quirky as all hell, I felt she was very well-written and relatable. For one, she is psychotic in the pursuit of her crush. At one point he texts her saying he's off to do groceries and she prowls the grocery stores close to his house hoping for an 'accidental encounter' She is also lonely, feeling hopeless, and not extremely attractive. We should all be reading more Cheryl's and spending less time on the Instagram explore page. However, I feel like Cheryl lost this during and after the relationship with Clee. I'm going to spoil some of the plot here so beware... we eventually learn Clee is pregnant and her and Cheryl decide to raise the baby together. After the birth however, Clee, being still so young, falls into a depression. She doesn't want to be tied down to this middle-aged woman and a baby. It's at this point Cheryl becomes way too mature for my liking. Some could say this has to do with her new role as a mother, and doing what's best for their baby, but either way I didn't care for it.

Weathered and broken down by a burden so heavy that anyone could see it: here was a woman who hated her life. And this was how she planned to get through it, by sitting on the curb, smoking. How long had she been depressed? Months, that was obvious now. She'd been smoking out here since we brought Jack home. It must happen all the time, a fleeting passion overwhelms someone's true course and there's nothing to be done about it."

She eventually just tells Clee to go live her life, and I find this wildly unrealistic for someone who was so psychotic a year earlier. Clee has ruined her life at work (everyone looks down at Cheryl for pursuing a homosexual relationship with the boss' daughter and being showy about it at the office, as well as encouraging Clee to keep the baby and helping her raise it). I just find it hard to believe she would be so cool and collected about letting Clee just run off with a young twenty year old after all that... but alas... I do love this little passage:

We had fallen in love; that was still true. But given the right psychological conditions, a person could fall in love with anyone or anything. A wooden desk- always on all fours, always prone, always there for you. What was the lifespan of these improbable loves? An hour. A week. A few months at best. The end was a natural thing, like the seasons, like getting older, fruit turning. That was the saddest part- there was no one to blame and no way to reverse it."

Isn't this SO true? It's what I've always said about The Bachelor. Half the time the guys are gross but there's a real syndrome making all the girls love them anyways... It ought to be studied.

I didn't enjoy this book. It could just be because it wasn't at all what I was expecting when I picked it up, but I also just didn't really like the story. It was very weird and I wouldn't recommend anybody read it. Looking at some of July's other work, I honestly can't see myself trying anything new by her either. As I mentioned before, there has to be more to this book. I just didn't see it.

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