July's world is insular and bizarre, her characters socially inept and awkward, her story and prose stunningly original. At once a character study of a borderline recluse and a parade of unsettling relationships. Recommended By Melissa A., Powells.com
Miranda July is known for exposing the most awkward, neurotic parts of our humanity with mirth and tenderness, and her stories often illustrate these themes by way of bizarre premises or characters — though usually both. In her first novel, The First Bad Man, we are introduced to Cheryl, the obsessively depraved, middle-aged narrator who winds up taking in her boss’s verbally-abusive grown daughter, Clee. This initial arrangement, and the utterly explosive relationship that develops between the unlikely pair, results in the most unexpected, comical, life-altering, and heart-rending outcome. A great crossover read for fans of both The Empathy Exams and The Silver Linings Playbook. Recommended By Aubrey W., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
The instant New York Time
s bestseller is “astonishing…In one novel, Miranda July tells us more about our universal need to be loved, and our ability to love and be loved, than most earthbound authors will in a lifetime” (Vanity Fair
In The First Bad Man, Miranda July tells the story of Cheryl, a vulnerable, uptight woman in her early forties who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat, unable to cry. Cheryl is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six; she also believes she has a profound connection with Phillip, a philandering board member at Open Palm, the women’s self-defense studio where she has worked for twenty years.
When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter Clee can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who teaches Cheryl what it means to love and be loved and, inadvertently, provides the solace of a lifetime.
“Brilliant, hilarious, irreverent, piercing—The First Bad Man powers past sexual boundaries and gender identification into the surprising galaxy of primal connection” (O, The Oprah Magazine).
This is a spectacularly original, unsettling, accomplished, and moving first novel with a tender and beguiling happy ending.
"Steeped in hyperbole, humor, wry commentary and strange characters…a masterful setup for a poignant nucleus on the matter of motherhood. The birth of Clee’s son…adds even greater humanity and dimension tothe young woman’s outlook than her lovingly dependent bond with Cheryl has. As for Cheryl herself, her lifelong yearning to love a child and be loved by the child in return is finally fulfilled…heartbreakingly beautiful…exquisite…a singularly rich anthem to maternal love." David Wiegand, The San Francisco Chronicle
"July suffuses her narrative with compassion.... The First Bad Man is a terrific novel…an off-kilter, extremely smart meditation on sex, love, loneliness, and the demands of work and womanhood…engrossing, surprising, and emotionally true." Eugenia Williamson, the Boston Globe
"Miranda July’s novel is a brilliant document of our age of managed sharing…. The First Bad Man is a brave undertaking for July, and not just because it finds her committing to long-form storytelling without a visual element for the first time. It incorporates a boldly feminist recasting of familiar tropes and genres....Though this is her first novel, July is an accomplished writer of short fiction, and within The First Bad Man live a handful of perfectly drawn short stories...July has an enviable talent for sketching inner life as all-consuming...Within the context of the wider world—in which all speech is policed, but especially women’s stories about their uniquely feminine personal experiences—The First Bad Man feels visionary.… Few have Miranda July’s…particular talent for couching what feel like naked, universal truths in clouds of the imagined and the impossible." Karina Longworth, Slate
"The First Bad Man is the first great book of 2015.… July’s work is tied together by her singular, confident, multifaceted voice. Her characters are often unusual and under-confident; her writing is always the former and never the latter. The First Bad Man, July’s debut novel, tells the story of an outwardly boring person whose interior life is a mosaic of delightful neuroses and staggering self-doubt...beautifully worded, emotionally complex, impressively but quietly insightful, and, in the right light, so, so funny." Josh Modell, The AV Club
"Miranda July—filmmaker, performance artist and now novelist—is ready to leave the old Miranda July behind. You know the one: The curly haired gamin, her impossibly blue eyes swirling with ideas. The irrepressible creative blowing cinematic kisses to the world…The First Bad Man is about to complicate the picture. Striking and sexually bold, it reveals a side that is darker and that, truth be told, has lurked in her work all along…Though The First Bad Man actively challenges a reader's comfort zone, July creates a female neurotic archetype that's familiar and fresh at once." Margaret Wappler, Los Angeles Times
"The first novel by the filmmaker and artist Miranda July is like one of those strange mythologica lcreatures that are part one thing, part another—a griffin or a chimera, perhaps, or a sphinx.... An immensely moving portrait of motherhood and what it means to take care of a child...July writes of Cheryl’s discovery of maternal love with heartfelt emotion and power." Michiko Kakutani, The New York Times
"Very funny…. The novel exploded my expectations and became unlike anything I’ve ever read…hilarious…like many of us, July seems to have unbridled daydreams. Unlike most of us, she has wicked follow-through…July is exceptional at tracing the imaginative contours of sexuality… She is not after perfection: She loves the raw edges of emotion, she likes people and things to be a little worn. Life isn’t silky, July is saying. The snags and the snafus bring the joy…The First Bad Man makes for a wry, smart companion on any day. It’s warm, it has a heartbeat and a pulse. This is a book that is painfully alive." Lauren Groff, The New York Times Book Review
"The First Bad Man is a disorienting mash-up of tongue-in-cheek social commentary, a celebration of oddball anti-heroines, and an embarrassingly honest look at the obsessions and entitlements we all (subconsciously or not) carry with us. I found myself laughing and cringing in equal measure, and even if I don’t totally understand everything July is trying to say or do here, I’ve become a believer." Bustle
About the Author
Miranda July is a filmmaker, writer, and artist. Her stories have appeared in The New Yorker, The Paris Review, and Harper’s. The story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You won the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award and has been published in twenty-three countries. She wrote, directed, and starred in The Future. Her film, Me and You and Everyone We Know, received a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Caméra d’Or at Cannes. In 2014 she debuted the audience-participatory performance, New Society, at the Walker Art Center, and launched the messaging service app, Somebody.