TRUST THE BLURBS on The First Bad Man. They might seem a little high-falutin', but they are 100-percent telling you what's up. Miranda July's new novel is astounding, hilarious and often full-on crazed. The First Bad Man contains moments so surprising and delightful that I yelled and (once) threw the book across the room.
I read The First Bad Man in one four-hour sitting. I read through the all-caps text messages, the lyrics to the David Bowie song "Kooks," and the extended fight scenes between two women grappling alone in a small house in Los Angeles. I read through the creepy May-December relationship and a female narrator's ejaculation fantasies, in which she imagines herself as multiple men.
Around 2 am, July's anxious first-person narration began to seem normal, even appropriate. Cheryl Glickman—I am unable to separate her from July—is a 40-something LA professional suffering from globus hystericus, an imaginary ball in her throat brought on by stress. Sure, that would happen. Of course.
Cheryl communicates with the recurring spirit of a baby who's reincarnated in a high percentage of the babies she encounters on an ordinary day. That baby is called Kubelko Bondy. Yep. The First Bad Man says some very naked, raw things about its characters. And then its characters said some very raw and naked things about me. Crap. Who told Miranda July about my spirit baby?
I loved July's first film, 2005's Me You and Everyone We Know, and her short story collection, also released that year, No One Belongs Here More Than You. July's writing is incisive, funny, and kind. Her yarns are fantastical but rooted in the mundane with an almost Southern Gothic eccentricity. This is SoCal Gothic, Los Angeles with eerie depth.
If you've seen any of her work before, you know by now if you're into Miranda July or not. If you liked her other projects (I was only so-so on The Future), then you'll probably like The First Bad Man. If you don't know anything about Miranda July, you'll know what you're dealing with within the first chapter