The First Bad Man: A Novel

Editorial reviews

The First Bad Man: A Novel

The First Bad Man uses the artifice of the performance in the service of intimacy. In the place of meta-fiction’s infinitely regressive hall-of-mirrors, July depicts a meaningful and messy portrait of our all-too-human relationships.

This is not simply a good work ‘for Miranda July’ (a mean-spirited comment that makes her seem like a brand of microwave meals, rather than a multi-faceted artist) but a good novel full stop.

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.

Tender, but smart enough, generally, to puncture the balloon when emotions start to soar, this is a deft, modern, endearing piece of work that borrows the term ‘kook’ from David Bowie and gives it a whole new lease of life.

It’s warm. It has a heartbeat and a pulse. This is a book that is painfully alive.

Reading The First Bad Man, you are reminded that the minute and the magnificent are both real life, that the daily texture of things is as varied, intricate and fascinating as the great ruptures of human life, as tidal waves and revolutions and thwarted love.

In literary fiction, it can be hard to deliver a happy ending, or at least an ending where everyone gets what they deserve. July pulls this off, and more than adequately ties up any narrative loose ends with a few finely executed surprises.

It’s perfect and if you don’t love it as much as I do we can no longer be friends.

It’s quirky, yes, but also beautifully worded, emotionally complex, impressively but quietly insightful, and, in the right light, so, so funny.

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 First Bad Man feels visionary.