All of us (I believe, even the healthy-minded ones) carry some weird, cringe-worthy thoughts — breaking a bottle on a loved one’s head, offering carnal pleasures to a random person, hurling abuses for no reason, eating disgusting stuff… When such disturbing thoughts surface, we shake ourselves for a moment, reprimand ourselves for nurturing nauseating fantasies, and move on with life. But, Cheryl — the heroine of Miranda July’s The First Bad Man — suffers from a painful inability to conquer those thoughts. They change her life for good.
Cheryl, who is in her early forties, works in a company that makes self-defence videos. She is single, lonely, and lovelorn. But, she is still funny, and July doesn’t show her wallowing in self-pity. From her circumstances alone, we learn Cheryl deserves a better life.
She is supremely weird; she has a conversation with every baby she meets to find out if the baby’s the one whom she met, when she was nine. Do you see the weirdness in that act? She is in her forties, and naturally the baby should also be in his thirties. In Cheryl’s mind though, the baby is a baby forever. She experiences a karmic connect with the baby, and believes that she would reunite with him one day. I found some parts of it cute. Especially the baby’s name — Kubelko Bondy.
Her life, although deplorable, is well-structured. However, its rhythm collapses, when Clee — Cheryl’s bosses’s 20-year-old daughter — moves in with her. The duo establishes a Fight Club sort of relationship, which is guided by who seems like a phony therapist. Her endless fights with Clee makes her Globus Hystericus disappear. I found their violent relationship unsettling.
Maybe, I found it more sickening, because Cheryl begins playing disturbing fantasies in her head, all involving Cheryl, and hundreds of men. I don’t loathe books on one’s sexual fantasies, or one exploring one’s orientation. But, The First Bad Man seems to go a bit overboard. At one point in time, I really wanted to drop the book to shrug off the thoughts that crawled into my head from the book. I questioned myself several times if I should finish the book. However, it was still compelling, and I continued. I cursed myself for resuming. That weird the book is!
While the first half explores Cheryl’s strange equation with Clee, her failed romance, her quest for Kubelko Bondy, and her peculiar fantasies, the second half shows Cheryl in an all new light. Her romance blossoms. She becomes a mother (not technically, but still. And, I didn’t spoil it for you!) Her anxiety issues subside. And finally, she finds life fair. During such parts, I thanked myself for continuing. But, the wait to arrive there, and the ordeal that I endured, were excruciating. The first half seemed liked a different book. I loved the second half, but it made me sad. Although Cheryl’s life gained a purpose, in my eyes, she seemed more vulnerable, and abandoned. But, I suppose it’s just my perspective, for Cheryl appeared happy and content.
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 were a series of closing kisses, goodbye kisses, kisses placed like lids on boxes—then the lid would pop off and need to be replaced. There, this is the final kiss—no, this is the final kiss. This one is, it really is. And now I’m just kissing that kiss good night.
The usual treatment is psychotherapy.” “I know.” I didn’t explain that I was single. Therapy is for couples. So is Christmas. So is camping. So is beach camping.
Did she think it was temporary? Or maybe that was the point of love: not to think.
Last night, when I finished reading the book, I thought I wouldn’t write about it; I thought there was nothing to write about it. I marked it read on Goodreads, awarded three stars, and went to bed. However, as soon as I woke up, I battled an urge to blog about its weirdness. Looks like, the book is growing on me.
I still wouldn’t give more stars to it, because I cannot deny the fact that the first half tested my patience. However, I would’t stop anybody from reading the book, because Cheryl is curious, interesting, and she comes across as many women’s voice.