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Rated 3.58
17,537 ratings

The First Bad Man

By: Miranda July

Publisher: Simon & Schuster Trade

Imprint: Scribner

Format: Hardcover | ISBN: 9781439172568

Other Formats:

Electronic | Audio | Trade Paperback

On Sale: | Pages: 288

  • About the Book
  • Reviews
From the acclaimed filmmaker, artist, and bestselling author of No One Belongs Here More Than You, a spectacular debut novel that is so heartbreaking, so dirty, so tender, so funnyso Miranda Julythat readers will be blown away.Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other peoples babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the womens self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes theyve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one. When Cheryls bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryls eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Cleethe selfish, cruel blond bombshellwho bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime. Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual obsession and fierce maternal love, Miranda Julys first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time. The First Bad Man is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable.
The Cheryl-Clee relationship is both fascinating and unsettling. July pulls off quite a trick here in creating a sharp first-person narrator who never fully analyzes or really explains her own strange actions.... "The First Bad Man" goes to some gamey places. But the reader who hangs on through the vivid and profane is ultimately rewarded with an affirming, even softhearted conclusion. In Cheryl's world, we find the kind of resonance that reverberates long after the book is closed.
—Cleveland Plain Dealer
At first glance, you might mistake the novel for the kind of assemblage typical of short-story writers essaying the long form for the first time. This may be the first novel by the author of the story collection “No One Belongs Here More Than You,” but she knows what she's doing... The novel isn't perfect, but its imperfections, in general, add to its appeal since we're constantly kept off guard. There is a full-circle finale that almost harms the book but is easily ignored. Besides, in its way, the denouement is in keeping with postmodern opera buffa at the core of “The First Bad Man.” Even here, there is truth in July's carefully crafted artificiality.
—San Francisco Chronicle
I'll confess to picking up filmmaker Miranda July's debut novel, “The First Bad Man,” with some uncharitable trepidation. But after putting it down, I have no compunction in predicting (in January, no less) that “The First Bad Man” will be one of the best books of 2015.... It's a lot to balance. But it works because the novel's eccentricities — I hate to use the much-maligned “quirks” — are treated with sincerity, not trotted out like sideshow attractions.... In the last 30 pages, July's characters are plunged into a dreary stasis, a dissatisfyingly predictable finish for a novel marked by seat-of-the-pants thrills. Still, “The First Bad Man” is worth it for the sheer pleasure of discovering a fresh story and a vibrant, original voice.
—Kansas City Star
Cheryl is the protagonist of Miranda July's very funny debut novel, “The First Bad Man,” and she's such an acute observer that her life is never as pathetic to the reader as it appears to the people around her.... Challenging work tends to incite readerly resistance, and I'd bet that “The First Bad Man” will not be exempt from this rule. The violence of the women's relationship will probably turn some readers away, though I found no real shock in it, mostly a sense of glee and wild expansion. July's descriptions of the grosser aspects of personal hygiene made me queasy, but they engaged personal taboos more than global ones. Of greater concern was the novel's strained airlessness.... When we're talking about literary fiction, art is the goal, and a book without vitality is a book without art. That's not a problem for “The First Bad Man,” which 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.
—New York Times
Each story thread opens up a world of possibilities, and the delight is watching July draw them tighter. Her sharp wit and terrific prose rush the story along, pulling the reader along with it, even at times...when in less gifted hands, gentle reader might go Ewww.... Geeky, precise, obsessive-compulsive and withdrawn as she is, Cheryl is likeable — almost lovable — because July is a brilliant stylist, and better yet, she's funny. And, in the messy, darkly comic, astonishing world the author opens to us, Cheryl will find the love of her life. This book couldn't be better.
—Miami Herald
Miranda July understands both vulnerability and compassion. Cheryl unfolds and refolds into herself as her weird and unfathomable world slowly becomes normal and manageable. Read THE FIRST BAD MAN, not because you will find yourself there, but because you may come to another understanding of how to laugh at and love yourself.
—Bookreporter.com
Emma Bovary, Anna Karenina and Connie Chatterley may have confronted sexist mores and chauvinistic husbands, but this skillfully written comic novel suggests that nothing they faced is as spiritually debilitating as a 21st-century culture that buries any sense of individuality under the weight of psychobabble, narcissism and the necessities of surviving in harmony with company groupthink.... The genius of “The First Bad Man” lies in how deftly July conveys the repression, subversion and manipulation rife in daily interaction. Thinly repressed hostility or inexplicably self-indulgent behavior is the norm among these characters.
—Washington Post
The first novel by the filmmaker and artist Miranda July is like one of those strange mythological creatures that are part one thing, part another — a griffin or a chimera, perhaps, or a sphinx. The novel starts off tentatively, veers into derivative and willfully sensational theater-of-the-absurd drama — part Pinter, part Genet — and then mutates, miraculously, into an immensely moving portrait of motherhood and what it means to take care of a child.
—New York Times
...a darkly comic, frustrating and uneven first novel by Miranda July, who's also a filmmaker and performance artist.... One misses here the hyper-quirky and distinctive charms of July's 2007 story collection, “No one belongs here more than you.”... In Cheryl, July has created a memorable character, someone who discovers something redemptive about herself as a hardworking foster mom after a lifetime of mental illness and being overlooked, unloved and beaten. Trouble is, by the time this sort-of uplift arrives, it's too little too late.
—Minneapolis Star Tribune
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