Posts Tagged Miranda July

book review: The First Bad Man

bad man

The First Bad Man By Miranda July.
Scribner| January 2015.|276 pages |$25.00| ISBN: 978-1-4391-7256-8

Rating: **/5*

It’s the time for celebrities to publish books. Current celebrity authors saturate the children’s book market. Not even sure how anyone who isn’t a celebrity will possibly be able to publish a children’s book. There are children’s books by Julianne Moore, Tori Spelling, Jessica Lange, Whoopi Goldberg, Katie Couric, Tiki Barber, Jamie Lee Curtis, Russell Brand, Jim Carrey, Beth Stern, Queen Latifah and Renaissance man Steve Martin. Noteworthy memoirs by celebrities also plentiful. My bedside table TBR pile: Yes, Please by Amy Poehler; There Was a Little Girl by Brooke Shields, Redefining Realness by Janet Mock and Not that Kinda Girl by Lena Dunham.

Miranda July’s film The Future ranked on my best films of 2011. I found it bizarre, amusing wistful existentialism. Unfortunately the wonderfully creative feminist filmmaker/performance artist falls short with her debut novel. Incidentally I didn’t like July’s short-story collection, No One Belongs Here More Than You either. Suppose I shouldn’t be surprised I didn’t click with this novel. However I’d started off quite hopeful.

At first, I liked The First Bad Man. It was dark, sad and complex –“Once Carl had called me ginjo, which I thought meant “sister” until he told me it’s Japanese for a man, usually an elderly man, who lives in isolation while he keeps the fire burning for the whole village.” The novel then crossed over a peculiar threshold and I no longer cared about any of it. It’s too weird and it’s as if she’s trying too hard to shock and to reveal the dark and bizarre. This is practically unreadable. I generally enjoy reading traditionally unlikable and unsympathetic characters. Unfortunately a huge disappointing miss.

Cheryl Glickman lives alone and hasn’t had a relationship in a while. She works from home for a women’s self-defense nonprofit. She dresses terribly and has even worse taste in men. 45-year-old Cheryl has a crush on Phillip, a board member and major donor, 20 years older than her. Some lines seem more film-like than novel-esque but are good. They’re just few and far between. In describing Phillip: “He drove like he lived, with entitlement, not using the blinker, just gliding very quickly between lanes in his Land Rover.” Phillip thrills Cheryl beyond description when he begins texting her and seeking her out. However it’s because he wants advice on how to pursue a relationship with a 16-year-old. “ Cheryl might be a hybrid of this lonely women and July herself. Write what you know and all. She suffers from a chronically restricted throat. metaphor for her inability to speak up, speak out and live her real truth. Phillips recommends his colourist who suggests a psychotherapist. “Therapy is for couples. So is Christmas. So is camping. So is beach camping.”

Cheryl lives a fairly quiet and isolated life until her bosses’ beautiful but brazen 20-year-old daughter Clee moves in with her. They don’t get along at all. Clee stays up all night watching TV. She’s a slob and Cheryl utilizes a very particular system for her various possessions and living spaces. She and Clee spontaneously begin acting out self-defense scenarios which simultaneously turns Cheryl on and loosens her throat. Maybe it’s the empowerment or the connection. July writes: “Our first tussle under the new agreement had been long and dirty and had taken us into all the rooms of the house. I can-canned and popped, not just to defend myself but out of real anger, first at her and then at people like her, dumb people.”

During an interview with All Things Considered on January 11 when asked she decided to write a book, Miranda July replied: “I love a challenge. There’s nothing that gets my heart going like the sense that I will fail. This was one of the last one’s left. And such an obvious one. ‘You’ve written short stories, you’ve written movies, can you write a novel.’ She also semi-considered if Scarlett Johansson were too old to play Clee until she realized she was writing a novel not a screenplay. So great Miranda July, check something else off the to-do list. I prefer you stick to screenwriting. Perhaps novels are more lucrative these days than indie film. And that’s unfortunate.

–review by Amy Steele

FTC Disclosure: I received this book for review from Simon and Schuster.

purchase at Amazon: The First Bad Man: A Novel


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FILM: Best of 2011

strong year for Ryan Gosling (Drive, Ides of March, Crazy Stupid Love), Jessica Chastain (Take Shelter, The Help, Tree of Life) and Brad Pitt (Moneyball, Tree of Life)

— brilliant, intense film about depression, anxiety and the end of the world
starring: Kirsten Dunst, Charlotte Gainsbourg, Keifer Sutherland
written and directed by: Lars von Trier

Take Shelter
–mesmerizing, creepy
starring: Michael Shannon, Jessica Chastain
written and directed by: Jeff Nichols

Midnight in Paris
–romantic, magical
starring: Owen Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Michael Sheen, Marion Cotillard
written and directed by: Woody Allen

–fascinating whether or not you follow baseball
starring: Brad Pitt, Robin Wright
directed by: Bennett Miller
written by: Steven Zaillian, Aaron Sorkin

Young Adult
–smart, acerbic, dark
starring: Charlize Theron, Patton Oswalt, Patrick Wilson
directed by: Jason Reitman
written by: Diablo Cody

Meek’s Cutoff
–sweeping saga of a covered wagon trek through the dangerous landscape comprising the Oregon Trail
starring: Michelle Williams, Shirley Henderson, Bruce Greenwood, Paul Dano
directed by: Kelly Reichardt
written by: Jonathan Raymond

Win Win
–unique, moving, honest
starring: Paul Giamatti, Amy Ryan
written and directed by: Thomas McCarthy

Margin Call
–quietly effective, potent
starring: Zachary Quinto, Stanley Tucci and Kevin Spacey, Demi Moore, Paul Bettany, Penn Badgley
directed and written by: J.C. Chandor

Another Earth
–dreamy, pensive
starring: Brit Marling, William Mapother
directed by: Mike Cahill
written by: Brit Marling, Mike Cahill

Jamie and Jessie are Not Together
–inventive, alluring, engaging
starring: Jacqui Jackson, Jessica London-Shields
written and directed by: Wendy Jo Carlton

The Future
—bizarre, amusing, wistful existentialism
starring: Miranda July, Hamish Linklater
written and directed by: Miranda July

Crazy Stupid Love
—sweet without being predictable or over-sentimental
starring: Steve Carell, Julianne Moore, Ryan Gosling, Emma Stone
directed by: Glenn Ficarra, John Requa
written by: Dan Fogelman

The Muppets
–nostalgic, happy
starring: Jason Segel, Amy Adams, Chris Cooper
directed by: James Bobin
written by: Jason Segel and Nicholas Stoller

–retro, startling
Starring: Ryan Gosling, Carey Mulligan, Mel Brooks, Bryan Cranston
written by: Hossein Amini
directed by: Nicolas Winding Refn

Into the Abyss
-superb meditation on the death penalty and our criminal justice system
written and directed by: Werner Herzog

The Tree of Life
–exquisite misery
starring: Brad Pitt, Jessica Chastain
written and directed by: Terrence Malick

Martha Marcy May Marlene
–disturbing and haunting
starring: Elizabeth Olson, Sarah Paulson
written and directed by: Sean Durkin

My Week with Marilyn
–delightful film and amazing performance by Michelle Williams
starring: Michelle Williams, Eddie Redmayne, Kenneth Branagh
screenplay by: Adrian Hodges,
directed by: Simon Curtis

Jane Eyre
–lovely, sweeping, romantic
starring: Mia Wasikowska, Michael Fassbender and Jamie Bell
screenplay by: Moira Buffini
directed by: Cary Fukunaga

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