Review: The First Bad Man – Miranda July.

Cheryl is an oddity. She lives alone, is a tightly-wound 40-something and is obsessed with the old board member at women’s self-defense non-profit Phillip, who she believes she’s been having sex with through many past lifetimes, but not this one. Her boss’s 21 year old daughter Clee moves into her house, and the order of Cheryl’s world kind of implodes. Where Clee was the cause of disaster, the selfish and nasty young woman changes her life in unimaginable ways.

Here’s the deal, for the first ages of reading this book, I was ambivalent. I didn’t really get it, the one-sided obsessiveness for Phillip, the misinterpretations of his kindness. Then came his announcement: he’s crazy for an underage girl and wants to have sex with her, but not without Cheryl’s permission. He will, however, text her updates of what they have done (including holding his stiff member for five minutes without moving). She then kind of fantasises about being Phillip doing the young lady, while Clee’s violent outbursts are enjoyed and her therapist has a weird thing going on, and there’s a whole creepy baby sub-plot deal.

I was in a bookshop and saw this book. The person I was with said it looked a super plain cover and I said “I’m reading it just now, I don’t really like it.” But then I started thinking about it, and I got unexpectedly caught up in Cheryl’s strange views on life, the way in which she fantasises. I got quite amused when trying to describe the Phillip situation, not the gross underage stuff, but the fact he was that kind of… weird to text her these irrelevant and ridiculous updates in lieu of her final opinion.

But overall, it was… fine. It’s strange, because until I put the book down and had some solid time away from it I hadn’t realised how these tangents, that had seemed off-putting as I read, had actually, oddly drawn me in. I think for now all I can say is, consciously, it was fine. Maybe I’ll have another bookshop revelation and realise it’s some literary genius brooding in my subconscious, but based on the fact I’ve just finished it in the last 10 minutes, I feel like I’ll think of this book weeks, months from now and something will change.

19th Feb 2015

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