Book review: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

imagesThis novel is unlike most of contemporary American novels. It is my kind of novel. First, it is a first person narrative, a story told by our quirky and unlikely heroine, Cheryl Glickman. One story, one narrator: you are inside the head of the protagonist all the way through.  Cheryl tells you about her self: her whole self is working as a manager for a women’s self-defense company that promotes female empowerment. Cheryl is probably the longest term employee. Cheryl has no female empowerment, and no self esteem. The owners of her company ask that she work from home because they don’t want to be around her. When they also ask her to house their insolent, slovenly, couch potato, 20-year-old daughter, Clee, she agrees…no questions asked.


Cheryl’s story is filled with her fantasies, what other people expect from her and her reactions to the non-sensical world she (we) lives in. Some people consider this novel to be a comedy. I didn’t. It is an absurd psychological tale of a woman who has repressed her entire personality to the point where she only reflects those around her. Cheryl has a psychosomatic lump in her throat; an obsessive crush on a narcissistic male board member of her company; a masochistic response to her house guest, Clee; visits to a (non)therapist, who is playing ‘adult games’ with a doctor Cheryl is seeing; a search for a baby she had some type of psychic communication with when she was a young girl.

This search for love is what propels Cheryl through this novel. The First Bad Man, a reference to a self-defense scenario, is definitely worth reading.  One, because you have never met someone as interesting and yet so disturbed as Cheryl before in literature, and Two, because the author, Miranda July, takes you on an extremely interesting ride though and into a turning point in this woman’s life. You can never imagine where she is going to land next, but it keeps getting more and more interesting. There is violence between women as well as unpleasant sex fantasies that might turn you off, but alot of raw emotion. The book is art…remember that. And very well done. Bravo.






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