When the entire world seems horrid, inexplicable, and insane; when winter is descending, as viral counts are ascending; when you’re anxious as can be about what tomorrow might bring—there’s always Miranda July to remind us that everybody and everything is ridiculous, . . . not to mention ridiculously funny.
With no ado at all, may I present the first four sentences of her 2015 novel The First Bad Man?
“I drove to the doctor’s office as if I was starring in a movie Phillip was watching—windows down, hair blowing, just one hand on the wheel. When I stopped at red lights, I kept my eyes mysteriously forward. Who is she? people might have been wondering. Who is that middle-aged woman in the blue Honda?”
Hahahaha!! Get me to explosively and literally LOL in the first four sentences, and you are automatically my new hero.
Well, but I admit—Miranda July is not a new hero of mine. I am a long-time fan. Eons ago, I watched a movie she wrote, directed, and starred in—for she is accomplished in multiple artistic arenas—and emerged astonished.
And a little embarrassed, and creeped out.
July specializes in a sort of art that is so self-reflective and intimate that the audience feels almost violated. All audience-member laughter is somehow directed at the expense of oneself, as well as a character. July’s art exposes what it feels like to be human, on a moment-to-moment basis. She lays bare our most intimate thoughts: the ones we don’t say out loud, nor even fully consciously register.
These thoughts can be embarrassing.
And very provoking of laughter.
Take the four sentences quoted above. Oh, God! Who of us has not driven around while imagining we are starring in a movie? It’s such a fun internal activity. But when viewed as an outsider, it is preposterous, . . . oh so preposterous!
And oh so funny.
The First Bad Man was the perfect antidote for the depression I had sunk into while slogging through Daniel Defoe’s A Journal of the Plague Year. Praise the Lord—The First Bad Man was LOL comical all the way through. The creativity of the jokes was astounding, and they just kept coming. Moreover, the novel is not just a comedy; it also has serious themes. Without giving away what happens, I will share that it touched my heart, and in a very big way.
This novel is literature at its finest. I don’t believe it has gotten the press it deserves. Perhaps this is because the jokes can be uncomfortably taboo. Or perhaps it is because the themes are skewed toward those of interest to women. A book with taboo jokes and female-skewing themes is not what most people think of, when they think of the Great American Novel.
I hereby nominate The First Bad Man for the LizaAchillesLand Great American Novel Award.
And I hereby recommend it to all who are facing a lonely, scary, and getting-ever-colder-and-darker tail end of 2020.
What do you think about, while cruising around town in your blue Honda?