By Adrian Ernesto Cepeda
The first time I heard of Miranda July was in 2005 when I saw her debut movie Me and You and Everyone We Know. What I remember most about this post-modern romantic comedy was the scene in the middle of the film when July’s character, Christine, and her romantic interest Richard, played by John Hawkes, are on their first date and Christine plays out their whole relationship while walking down the block. It’s an amazing moment that ends perfectly when Richard says, “Yeah, but we’re not even there yet. We’re still at the good part. We’re not even sick of each other yet.”
Well, even after thirteen years of following Miranda July’s work in the pop culture zeitgeist, I’m still not sick of her. This actor, director and writer has an incredible ability to create an entire scene with just one sentence. Her words create a literary movie, and her sentences burst with motion pictures dancing in your head. It’s this talent of hers that has allowed her to cross into such different forms of media with ease. From the short stories (that WordTheatre loves to keep tabs on for possible performances, such as when we used her story “Roy Spivey” for a Heart Strings event) to the films she pens, the audience is always altered for the better.
Now, I bet you’re wondering why such a successful director, actor and author would feel compelled to take on the behemoth challenge of writing the Great American Novel? In July’s words, during an interview with NPR, “I love a challenge. There’s nothing that gets my heart going like the sense that I will fail. This was kind of one of the last ones left, and just such an obvious one. Like, you’ve written short stories, you’ve made movies. Can you write a novel?”
The answer to that question is a resounding yes. Just check out the reviews: The New York Times called The First Bad Man: “Unlike anything I’ve ever read…hilariously… painfully alive.” The Los Angeles Times added, “Striking and sexually bold, it reveals a side that is darker and that, truth be told, has lurked in her work all along.” Clearly, Miranda’s steady hand has conquered another form of the written word.
For those who have not heard of this novel, The First Bad Man tells the story of Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.
Things go from weird to surreal when Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while. Needless to say, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes from this event, and the rest you’ll have to read. So place your order and buy your copy today. From the first page alone you will most certainly fall in love with The First Bad Man.
image credit: flavorwire.com