Book Review | The First Bad Man by Miranda July

The First Bad Man Miranda July Book Cover Book Review Lena Dunham

[I received a copy of The First Bad Man by Miranda July from its Canadian publisher Simon & Schuster Canada. This does not affect my review of the novel.]

Have you ever watched an artsy film that was at once complex, confusing, yet beautiful? Have you ever been mesmerized by something you couldn’t quite understand yet yearned to learn more of? That’s how I felt when reading filmmaker, artist, and bestselling author Miranda July’s The First Bad Man.

Perhaps knowing that July is a filmmaker pushed me towards feeling this way, but as I read The First Bad Man I couldn’t help but be pulled by its imagery and deep inner world and see it as a film. Its main character Cheryl Glickman is one of the most complicated narrators I’ve read in a long time, and with each page I felt like I could see her version of the world but, at the same time, feel detached from it.

But before I get into that, I should probably tell you what this book is about. Cheryl is a middle-aged woman with a steady job and an immaculately neat house. She is unmarried but secretly fantasizes about Philip, whom she knows through work. She also has a condition called Globus hystericus, or, as the book’s back cover puts it, “a perpetual lump in her throat.” But this is not the only odd thing about Cheryl; she constantly sees a boy she calls Kubelko Bondy reincarnated in babies, seeks out chromotherapy, and has a very complicated relationship with her sexuality. When Cheryl is forced to share her private space – her home – with another, she is also forced to face some of her neuroses head on.

I won’t lie: it took me a while to get a feel for this book. Cheryl is so odd that it can be disorienting to be in her head. Told in first person, July doesn’t hold back when it comes to sharing Cheryl’s deepest, darkest feelings and fantasies, making this a sometimes-uncomfortable but very intimate read. But even though it does take a while for the reader to become situated in Cheryl’s world, I think her character (and, ultimately, this book) is an important piece of literature. I recently read an article with Gillian Flynn, bestselling author of Gone Girl, where she defends her character Amy Dunne and the implications that come with Amy’s actions. She says, “…the one thing that really frustrates me is this idea that women are innately good, innately nurturing. In literature, they can be dismissably bad – trampy, vampy, bitchy types – but there’s still a big pushback against the idea that women can be just pragmatically evil, bad and selfish.” While July’s Cheryl isn’t what I would call evil, bad, or selfish, Flynn brings up a point that really resonated with me: let’s show more sides of women in literature, whether they be good, evil, or incredibly complicated. For me, The First Bad Man shines in its portrayal of a unique, individual woman. I admire July for writing a female character that I could somewhat relate to but also feel unsettled by. We are not made from cookie cutters; why should our heroines be that way?

So, while I’ll admit that this probably isn’t one of my top ten favourite books, I do value its place in contemporary literature and celebrate it for its ability to create a unique, un-sugar coated female voice.

Verdict: An odd read, but one that I have come to admire for its fiercely unique character and interesting story. Special mention to the Epilogue, which I especially loved.

Read if: You want to read a book with extremely vivid writing, want to experience a complicated and uncensored female voice, want to know what/who the book is referring to as the First Bad Man.

Are you a fan of Miranda July? Have you read The First Bad Man or any of her other stories?

Giveaway | Not That Kind of Girl: A Night With Lena Dunham

Lena Dunham Not That Kind of Girl Toronto

Lena Dunham has been someone I’ve admired for quite a while. I think that she’s an important public figure in that she seems like a pretty down-to-earth person with a lot of interesting things to say, especially about gender relations and mental health. I am a huge fan of her show GIRLS and I devoured her newly-released memoir Not That Kind of Girl in two days (in my opinion, I read it a little too quickly, but that’s what re-reads are for, right?). So, when I managed to snag tickets to see her in Toronto, I was over the moon.

When I watched GIRLS for the first time, I was in a place in my life where I felt like I was getting it together but also not really getting it. I found a lot of myself (and my friends) in the girls in the show, and the honesty with which it portrayed women (or, at least, a group of women) really impressed me. I finally felt like there was a show that was real; it wasn’t sugar-coated or tied up neatly. I could relate to it. Oh, and did I mention that on top of that it’s also funny and thought-provoking? Because it’s both of those things too.

I’m happy to report that Lena in person is just as impressive as Lena on screen or Lena in writing. Her answers to interviewer Johanna Schneller’s questions were smart, humorous, and honest. She was very articulate and charming and I agreed with a lot of the things she said. Since I was basically in awe the whole time I was at the event (honestly, it felt like such a surreal night), I didn’t think to write down any quotes; luckily, Jessica from Paper Trail Diary has a wonderful re-cap that I urge you to check out.

After her on-stage interview, Lena signed copies of her book. She was incredibly friendly and really took the time to talk to each of her fans. She even personalized each book, which I wasn’t expecting her to do since the line up was so long. I was a jumble of nerves when talking to her but I managed to get a few words out and I’m glad I got the chance to tell her how much I love her work. It was truly a magical night.

Now, here’s the fun part! I want to share my love for Lena Dunham with YOU! I was able to get an extra copy of the book signed, so I’m giving it away to one lucky reader!

**CLICK HERE TO ENTER THE GIVEAWAY**

CONTEST RULES:
1. No purchase necessary.
2. Open to residents of Canada + the United States only.
3. If a winner is picked and their Twitter account only has giveaway entries, I will choose again.
I want the winner to genuinely enjoy these books!
4. Have fun and good luck!

Are you a fan of Lena Dunham? Will you be checking out (or have you read) Not That Kind of Girl?

Wishlist Wednesday | Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham

Not That Kind of Girl by Lena Dunham Book Cover

Source: Goodreads

[Wishlist Wednesday is a book blog hop hosted by Pen to Paper]

I’m not normally a huge memoir/autobiography reader, but after reading and loving Elaine Lui (Lainey Gossip)’s Listen to the Squawking Chicken, I’m looking forward to reading my next one! When I heard Lena Dunham was writing a book, I was instantly sold. I’m a huge fan of her HBO show Girls and have high hopes for Not That Kind of Girl.

Of the book, Dunham says, “If I can take what I’ve learned in this life and make one treacherous relationship or degrading job easier for you, perhaps even prevent you from becoming temporarily vegan, then every misstep of mine will have been worthwhile. This book contains stories about wonderful nights with terrible boys and terrible days with wonderful friends, about ambition and the two existential crises I had before the age of twenty. About fashion and its many discontents. ” (from the book’s Goodreads page)

Needless to say, I can’t wait to read this book. I think it will be full of Dunham’s trademark humour and wit. And if her work on Girls is any indication, Not That Kind of Girl is going to be insightful, hilarious, and relatable.

Are you as excited for Not That Kind of Girl as I am? Are you a fan of Girls? Did you add anything new to your wishlist this week?