Monday, March 16, 2015

The First Bad Man: A Novel by Miranda July

Voice, voice, voice. Man, oh man did Miranda July hook me hard with the narrator's voice in her hilarious novel, The First Bad Man. It combines the similar voice of Lydia Millet's Mermaids in Paradise with the outrageous sexual fantasies of Helen Dewitt's Lightning Rods.

Cheryl Glickman searches for a particular transmigrated soul in each baby she meets. She reminds me of the socially awkward characters in Jessica Westhead's short story collection, And Also Sharks. Cheryl lives alone and finds it impossible to say no to the houseguest from hell because Clee is the bosses' daughter. Clee is so irritating that even Cheryl's homeless gardener threatens to quit. Rick came with the house and Cheryl couldn't bring herself to fire him when she moved in. Now, she is used to his presence and wants him to stay.

(I doubt this is an African snail, since
I photographed it in rural France.)
Anyway, when Rick asks Cheryl to get a few African snails to help aerate the garden, she so badly wants to placate him that she goes overboard and orders a 100 of them. When they arrive, it's clear there are too many.

Rick: "I will deal with four of them. That is the number of snails I am prepared to supervise. I don't have the training to care for a herd."

Meanwhile, Cheryl is becoming sexually obsessed with Clee. "Her cowlike vacuousness didn't really bother me anymore. Or it didn't matter--her personality was just a little piece of parsley decorating warm tawny haunches."

Masturbation emergencies and equally desperate therapy sessions ensue. The First Bad Man is a wild and raunchy ride that suddenly veers into lesbian territory. The destination is immensely satisfying. Sigh. I loved July's short story collection No One Belongs Here More than You and I love The First Bad Man even more.

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