The First Bad Man by Miranda July

An autographed copy of Miranda July’s The First Bad Man arrived in a cardboard box propped against my front door. I did not order it. I was coming back from yoga. It was any old day, and my mind very slowly bended around the idea that someone had bought something for me. I brought it inside and carefully opened it. Inside was a loving note from Z and the book. I immediately read the first few paragraphs, smiled to myself, and set it aside for later.

I’ve been reading a lot lately and savored this one, reading it slowly over the course of a few weeks. There are so many lines in the first few chapters that made me laugh, or made me reach for a pencil to draw a thin gray line under a phrase or beside a passage. Miranda July is an artist who makes me feel not alone in this world. It is absolutely novel how she can capture all the strange little quips and quirks that brains do.

July also writes about really disgusting, gross-out, putrid sorts of things, and the sheer quantity of that mid-way through The First Bad Man started to get me down. The suffocation the main character creates for herself, her home, her kitchen, her frying pan, her throat condition, the containers of urine, the breast punching—it all got to be too much, and I didn’t want to spend any more time in the book. But, of course, I did and in the last few chapters, I started underlining things again, and smiling as I read, and once again, felt that I was not alone in the world.

When I read a particularly delightful passage, I found myself turning to the title page and running my finger over her indecipherable magic marker signature. Who was this woman? Is she like me? Or, is she commenting on what it’s like to be me?

When I finished the book, I googled her. She’s married to a handsome man! Maybe I will marry a handsome man too, I thought. She just had a child. Maybe I will have a child too, but later, when I am her age. Will I worry about bringing a child into “our Lover’s Story”? Will there be a “Story”? In those moments of reading and googling, and “liking” her on Facebook, and watching the video she had just posted, I thought, yes, my life will look very much like hers. And, perhaps more deluded than the main character in The First Bad Man, I thought, but for me there will be no Clee, no Phillip, no Kubelko Bondy, no bad person or thing, and so I have obviously learned nothing, but will keep the book on my shelf and will go back and read parts of it again.

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