Jessie Young's Reviews > The First Bad Man

The First Bad Man by Miranda July
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it was amazing

This is the funniest, and in some ways truest, book I've ever read. It's characters are insanely whacky, which makes it all the more relatable.

Highlights:

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I checked to see if he and I had a special connection that was greater than his bond with his mother. We didn’t.

That’s the problem with men my age, I’m somehow older than them.

When you live alone people are always thinking they can stay with you, when the opposite is true: who they should stay with is a person whose situation is already messed up by other people and so one more won’t matter.

I made myself very still so he would continue; I love to be described.

It doesn’t have a name—I just call it my system. Let’s say a person is down in the dumps, or maybe just lazy, and they stop doing the dishes. Soon the dishes are piled sky-high and it seems impossible to even clean a fork. So the person starts eating with dirty forks out of dirty dishes and this makes the person feel like a homeless person. So they stop bathing. Which makes it hard to leave the house. The person begins to throw trash anywhere and pee in cups because they’re closer to the bed. We’ve all been this person, so there is no place for judgment, but the solution is simple: Fewer dishes.

How much time do you spend moving objects to and fro? Before you move something far from where it lives, remember you’re eventually going to have to carry it back to its place—is it really worth it? Can’t you read the book standing right next to the shelf with your finger holding the spot you’ll put it back into? Or better yet: don’t read it. And if you are carrying an object, make sure to pick up anything that might need to go in the same direction. This is called carpooling. Putting new soap in the bathroom? Maybe wait until the towels in the dryer are done and carry the towels and soap together. Maybe put the soap on the dryer until then.

Like a rich person, I live with a full-time servant who keeps everything in order—and because the servant is me, there’s no invasion of privacy.

After days and days alone it gets silky to the point where I can’t even feel myself anymore, it’s as if I don’t exist.

Obviously her features were better than mine, but if you just looked at the spaces between the features, I won.

Some people think it’s really important to be in the moment with sex, to be present with the other person; for me it’s important to block out the person and replace them, entirely if possible, with my thing.

Reincarnation?” “I don’t relate to that word.”

He drove like he lived, with entitlement, not using the blinker, just gliding very quickly between lanes in his Land Rover. At first I kept looking over my shoulder to check if the lane was actually clear or if we were going to die, but after a while I threw caution to the wind and sank back into the heated leather seat. Fear was for poor people. Maybe this was the happiest I’d ever been.

Everything in the bathroom was white. I sat on the toilet and looked at my thighs nostalgically. Soon they would be perpetually entwined in his thighs, never alone, not even when they wanted to be. But it couldn’t be helped. We had a good run, me and me. I imagined shooting an old dog, an old faithful dog, because that’s what I was to myself. Go on, boy, get. I watched myself dutifully trot ahead. Then I lowered my rifle and what actually happened was I began to have a bowel movement. It was unplanned, but once begun it was best to finish. I flushed and washed my hands and only by luck did I happen to glance back at the toilet. It was still there. One had to suppose it was the dog, shot, but refusing to die. This could get out of hand, I could flush and flush and Phillip would wonder what was going on and I’d have to say The dog won’t die gracefully. Is the dog yourself, as you’ve known yourself until now? Yes. No need to kill it, my sweet girl, he’d say, reaching into the toilet bowl with a slotted spoon. We need a dog. But it’s old and has strange, unchangeable habits. So do I, my dear. So do we all. I flushed again and it went down. I could tell him about it later.

For plain water I was Heidi, dipping a metal ladle into a well. It’s from the end, when she’s living in the Alps. For orange juice I was Sarge from the Beetle Bailey comic, where Sarge and Beetle Bailey go to Florida and drink all-you-can-drink orange juice. Glug, glug, glug. It worked because it wasn’t me, it was the character swallowing, offhandedly—just a brief moment in a larger story.

The urgency predated cars—it had to be me alone thrusting through space, chest out, hair blown back. Each driver who saw me thought, She is running for her life, she will die if she doesn’t get there, and they were right. Except it was quite a bit farther on foot than I had anticipated, and the rain had thickened. My clothes became heavy with water, my face was washed again and again. Each driver who passed me thought, She is a giant rat or some other wet, craven animal whose hunger strips her of her dignity. And they were right.

“I appreciate the gift but I’m not . . . you know. I’m into dick.” She coughed huskily and spit into one of the empty Pepsi bottles on the coffee table. “We’re in the same boat, as far as that goes,” I said. I saw us in a little dinghy together, liking dick on the big dark sea.

pause—I saw us through the homeless gardener’s eyes and felt obscene. Being outside society, he didn’t know about adult games; he was like me before I met Ruth-Anne, thinking everything that happened in life was real.

The noise shook everything out of my head. What a magical way to get around. I’d always thought of these types of machines as toys for uneducated people who didn’t care about the environment, but maybe they weren’t. Maybe this was a kind of meditation. I felt connected to everything and the motor volume held me at a level of alertness I wasn’t used to. I kept waking up and then waking up from that, and then waking up even more. Was everything redneck actually mystical?

See, this is what we do, I began, we exist in time. That’s what living is; you’re doing it right now as much as anyone. I could tell he was deciding. He was feeling it out and had come to no conclusions yet. The warm, dark place he had come from versus this bright, beepy, dry world. Try not to base your decision on this room, it isn’t representative of the whole world. Somewhere the sun is hot on a rubbery leaf, clouds are making shapes and reshaping and reshaping, a spiderweb is broken but still works. And in case he wasn’t into nature, I added: And it’s a really wild time in terms of technology. You’ll probably have a robot and that will be normal.

Should I introduce myself or try to kill them? Not violently, just enough that they wouldn’t exist.

Anyone who questions what satisfaction can be gained from a not-so-bright girlfriend half one’s age has never had one. It just feels good all over. It’s like wearing something beautiful and eating something delicious at the same time, all the time.

Sometimes I looked at her sleeping face, the living flesh of it, and was overwhelmed by how precarious it was to love a living thing. She could die simply from lack of water. It hardly seemed safer than falling in love with a plant.

But as the sun rose I crested the mountain of my self-pity and remembered I was always going to die at the end of this life anyway. What did it really matter if I spent it like this—caring for this boy—as opposed to some other way? I would always be earthbound; he hadn’t robbed me of my ability to fly or to live forever. I appreciated nuns now, not the conscripted kind, but modern women who chose it. If you were wise enough to know that this life would consist mostly of letting go of things you wanted, then why not get good at the letting go, rather than the trying to have?

There would be other unpardonable crimes, I could feel them coming—things that in retrospect would become my greatest regrets. I’d always be catching up with my love. How terrible.
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Reading Progress

Started Reading
March, 2016 – Finished Reading
July 11, 2017 – Shelved

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