Literature

July Rhapsody

artfiles mirandaWhy we care about Miranda July’s quirks

Miranda July thinks about the peculiar nature of ordinary life—a lot. Whether it’s in her award-winning film, Me, You and Everyone we Know, which lays out the magic and misunderstandings that lead to love; her book of short stories, “No One Belongs Here More than You,” written in shades of awkward deviation and tender acceptance; or a short film about dealing with distractions such as cell phones and magazines by trapping them under overturned bowls, she examines us in our day-to-day habitats, knowing that we hide our most telling secrets in plain sight.

July will be appearing at Bookshop Santa Cruz on Wednesday, Jan. 21 at 7 p.m. for her first novel, “The First Bad Man.” She has even created an online store, thefirstbadman.com, that sells objects mentioned in the book (all proceeds go to charity). A bobby pin sold for $62, and a jester hat went for $103.50. You still have a couple of days left to snag a post-it with a date and address on it, but be forewarned, the current bid is $327.22. Everyone loves an artifact.

In her novel, we’re guided through an intimate yet somehow epic tale of overturned expectations by seemingly ordinary Cheryl Glickman. Middle-aged and driven by habit, she lives alone and works at a women’s self-defense non-profit. She also has a perpetual lump in her throat, unrequited love for a caddish board member, and a nagging sense, fueled by vague memories, that she was meant to be a mother. She’s the last person you’d expect to be swept up into an oddly moving and sometimes hilarious exploration of sexual obsession, raw emotion, and twisted logic, but once she agrees to allow her boss’s daughter, Clee, to come live with her, all bets are off.  Clee is bombastic, pungent, beautiful, rude, and may be the ticket to Cheryl’s most powerful yearnings.

July is sometimes critiqued for placing quirk above all else, but her art never loses sight of the crossroads where our strangeness meets our beauty. In a world where issues like religion, money and politics drive us apart, she seems compelled to search through the minutia of our eccentricities for the beautiful, terrible, funny, redeemable qualities that connect us. And when we inevitably spot some aspect of ourselves in her outlandish cast of characters, we understand that this is what she was aiming for all along.  Indeed, this is what great art is all about.


Info: 7 p.m., Jan. 21, Bookshop Santa Cruz, 423-0900. Free. PHOTO: QUIRK AND TO THE POINT Miranda July brings her debut novel to Bookshop Santa Cruz.

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