The First Bad Man by Miranda July (My love letter to Miranda July)

201501-omag-mirandajuly-2-949x1356The First Bad Man by Miranda July
276 pages | Purchase @ Barnes & Noble

It’s been a long time since it’s been physically uncomfortable to finish a book. By physically uncomfortable, I really mean that my emotions are so all over the place that they’re manifesting themselves as thought I’m experiencing some slight anxiety and a fair amount of sadness. And joy. Of course, I shouldn’t be surprised that this is the state that I am in at the end of this novel as I always feel this way at the ending of anything Miranda July creates.

Some people may not WANT to feel this way, but, honestly, I welcome it. I value this feeling as a sign that I was truly touched by the characters and the journey that I shared with them. Not only did I get to crawl inside of them to feel what they’re feeling, both the good and the bad, but I was also able to sit fully outside of them as a spectator to the events comprising their daily lives.

One aspect of Miranda July’s art (whether it be her novels, film, or performances) that I adore so much is that she captures life so perfectly. The beauty of life isn’t in one single type of experience or a perfect, flawless moment, but it is a culmination of our awkward interactions, happiness, love, pain, loss, the mundane, the disgusting, connecting with other people, connecting with ourselves, and everything in between. She doesn’t shy away from this and, even in a scene of loss and sadness, the beauty shines through.

The First Bad Man is narrated by Cheryl, a woman in her 40s who lives alone and exists within her own eccentric world. She once felt a connection with the soul (Kubelko Bondy) of a young baby and periodically reconnects with Kubelko Bondy, but only ever in passing. Cheryl’s entire world is changed by a brief cohabitation with a young woman named Clee. Together, they explore their boundaries and bring us along with them through the hilarity, the (sometimes) uncomfortable fantasies, life, and loss. Through this experience, Cheryl’s life is completely changed; she finds a strength that we don’t get to see her embody at the beginning of the novel.

A few additional quotes from the story that I am particularly fond of:

A bag of blood was rushed in; it was from San Diego. I’d been to the zoo there once. I imagined the blood being pulled out of a muscled zebra. This was good – humans were always withering away from heartbreak and pneumonia, animal blood would be much tougher, live, live, live.”

“Every night my plan was to make it to dawn and then feel out the options. But that was just it – there were no options. There had been options, before the baby, but none of them had been pursued. I had not flown to Japan by myself to see what it was like there. I had not gone to nightclubs and said ‘Tell me everything about yourself’ to strangers. I had not even gone to the movies by myself. I had been quiet when there was no reason to be quit and consistent when consistency didn’t matter.”

“These exotic revelations bubbled up involuntarily and I began to understand that the sleeplessness and vigilance and constant feedings were a form of brainwashing, a process by which my old self was being molded, slowly but with a steady force, into a new shape: a mother. It hurt. I tried to be conscious while it happened, like watching my own surgery. I hoped to retain a tiny corner of the old me, just enough to warn other women with.”

The ending of this novel feels like the loss of a loved one. I want to crawl back into the pages (or, in this case, my Nook app) and hang out with Cheryl for a little bit longer. She made me laugh. Her story, at times, made me want to cry. From beginning to end, I wanted to give her a hug. I am now in one of those rare circumstances where I want to continue reading and starting in on another novel, but my heart is going to need a few days to get over this one.

My subject mentioned something about a love letter for Miranda July — basically, if Miranda July were to ever stumble across this page, or my face on the street, I would, ultimately, want to adequately convey that her art speaks directly to my heart. I hope that she writes many more novels, short stories, films, and whatever else she desires to create.

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A celebration, this is: Sylvia Plath

Happy Birthday, Sylvia Plath! In honor of Ms. Plath’s birthday, I am sharing this blog post that I wrote a few years back… for her birthday.

No Other Appetite


Sylvia Plath was born on October 27, 1932.  As we all know, she is no longer with us, but her writing and passion live on.  For me, personally, I have yet to find another writer who touches me in the same way that her words touch me.  Her fiction, poetry, letters, and personal journals are treasures that will all continue to live on as  classics forever.

In celebration of the memory of her life, here are a few videos of Sylvia Plath reading some of her work:

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Quotable: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

201501-omag-mirandajuly-2-949x1356

It is no secret that I adore Miranda July. I first fell in love with her film work and was ecstatic to learn that she wrote books, as well. I am finally reading The First Bad Man and, like with everything that she produces, there are quotable gems throughout the novel. I wanted to share a couple of these quotes with you today; I am sure that I will find many more between now and when I am ready to write a post about the entire novel.

“I wondered how many other women had sat on this toilet and stared at this floor. Each of them the center of their own world, all of them yearning for someone to put their love into so they could see their love, see that they had it.”

“We all think that we might be terrible people. But we only reveal this before we ask someone to love us. It’s a kind of undressing.”

“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?”

Purchase Miranda July’s novel and prepare to feel refreshed: Barnes & Noble: The First Bad Man by Miranda July

This isn’t related to the novel (though maybe we could look deeply into its meaning and connect it with the characters), but this is one of my favorite short videos that she has put together:

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To Write or Not To Write…

Antique black typewriter painted with UV light. Various objects on a dark background. Artistic blur.

Antique black typewriter painted with UV light. Various objects on a dark background. Artistic blur.

Surprise, surprise… it has, once again, been quite the lag since my last post. All of life’s daily “stuff” has really left me feeling pretty deflated by the end of the day. Between work (I started a new job last February), baby (turning two next month!), pets (3 cats, many reptiles), caring for the house (the cleaning… never…. stops…!!), and all of the other things that come up, there really isn’t much time leftover to update my blog. As always, however, my intentions are to MAKE time and to set up a more definitive schedule. It might take me some time to get there, but I’m truly hoping that I get there.

This past year has been pretty tumultuous. Last October I left a company that I worked at for close to 7 years and worked briefly at another company that just wasn’t a good fit. I wasn’t happy from day one and struggled to try to make things work. This was happening while we went through the worst winter that we’ve had in a long time. Snow. So much snow. Somewhere in the midst of all of this, I came down with a nagging cough that turned out to be bronchitis. I put an application into my current company during the holidays, and, luckily, everything worked out! I’m much happier now, enjoy the work that I’m doing and the people who I work with.

Being in a better place mentally and emotionally inspired me to start up my classes towards an M.A. in Creative Writing again. Finally, finally I was going to be able to start my actual creative writing classes! Needless to say, I was psyched and determined to make the most out of it. As I began, however, I found that my excitement dissipated fairly fast. My inspiration depleted completely. How could it be that I was running out of gas on achieving my lifelong dream just as I was getting to the good part of the process?

The realization that I wasn’t invested in the work and that it wasn’t helping me find any additional joy in my days was startling. My desire to be a writer has been an integral part of my personal identity for as far back as I can recall. I felt as though I was watching my dreams die, but they weren’t dying because anyone else was shooting me down; they were dying because… well, I don’t know why. If this wasn’t a part of my path, then what have I been dreaming about my entire life and working and hoping towards?

While it is possible that I’m being melodramatic and, perhaps, I wasn’t enthusiastic due to other circumstances – the teacher, the assignments, the school, exhaustion – I know that I’m never going to enroll in school again for this endeavor. It’s too expensive and I can’t see how it will pay off. That’s a sad and scary thought for me. Though, at the end of it all, if it’s just that I’m an eager reader and casual writer, as long as I can indulge and continue to find happiness in these activities, I will get to a place of contentment with that fact.

Have any of my readers had a similar experience? Any MA or MFA students out there? Please feel free to share your experiences and thoughts in the comments section. In the meantime, I’ll be over here, trying to get my act together with this blog.

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Bluebird by Charles Bukowski

It’s a Bluebird kind of year.

This poem isn’t read by Charles Bukowski, but I think that this gentleman does an alright job with it. I believe that there are quite a few videos out there on YouTube with him reading poems. Anyway – I do hope to get into a better rhythm with updating this blog. I promise. I say this every six months, but I mean it. I swear!

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The Poetry of Joyce Carol Oates

Like the rest of Oates’ work, her poetry is phenomenal.

Celestial Timepiece

Oates’s poetry … forms a body of work on its own merits and does not need to be interpreted only as an adjunct to her novels and short stories, as critics have said.

A future assessment of the place of poetry in the Oates canon may well increase its importance; such a reevaluation has happened with other major writers whose poetry was overlooked as the early readership more quickly perceived the message in prose. Poetry’s compressed language releases its power more gradually, but intelligence and verbal brilliance combined with the ‘talk style’ rhythm that is not yet much understood should bring a wider audience to these poems.

—Doris Earnshaw, Critical Survey of Poetry, 4th ed.

Poetry Collections

  • Tenderness / 1996
  • The Time Traveler / 1989
  • Invisible Woman: New & Selected Poems 1970-1982 / 1982
  • Women Whose Lives Are Food, Men Whose Lives Are Money / 1978
  • The Fabulous Beasts: Poems / 1975
  • Angel Fire:…

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52 Years of The Bell Jar

TBJ

The Bell Jar was originally published on January 14, 1963.  So, as per usual, I am late in my blog post commemorating the anniversary!  If you’ve read older posts on my blog then you already know how much I adore Sylvia Plath and her writing.  I have her signature tattooed on my body, I visited the site of her former dormitory at Smith College, yadda, yadda, yadda….

The Bell Jar wasn’t the first piece that I read by Plath, but it is the piece that I connect with the most. I actually couldn’t tell you how old I was when I first read this novel, but I can tell you that I was a teenage girl struggling with things that teenage girls struggle with, but those teenage girl struggles sat atop something much deeper that I didn’t quite know how to put into words. Luckily, Sylvia Plath did. Finding this novel was like finding a confidant or a best friend who knew exactly what I was feeling. Someone who knew how hard it could be to just wake up in the morning and do the things that you love. Or just breathe. For me, this novel was a lifeline, and, in many ways, it still acts as one today.

Plath, like no other writer that I’ve read (yet?), illustrates depression very accurately. There is nothing fluffed up in the pages of The Bell Jar, and there aren’t any apologies either. The novel fully explores the darkness, the hopelessness, the madness, the stigma, and the unpredictability of the disease. You can’t necessarily look at another person – or their life – and really be able to tell whether or not they suffer from depression. But, yes, it is a disease, and, unfortunately, it sometimes feels as though it’s one disease that the sufferer needs to be embarrassed of or apologize for.

One of the greatest gifts that literature gives to the world is its ability to connect people across time, culture, space. In the case of The Bell Jar, we have a novel written 52 years ago that is as relevant now as it was then. To be a  person stifled by a bell jar of one’s own – to be able to pick up this novel and know that someone else out there, at some point in time, felt like you do right now. That’s an amazing and beautiful thing.

In conclusion, here are some of my favorite quotes from The Bell Jar.  What are yours?

“The silence depressed me. It wasn’t the silence of silence. It was my own silence.”

“I felt my lungs inflate with the onrush of scenery – air, mountains, trees, people. And I thought,’This is what it is to be happy.'”

“I saw my life branching out before me like the green fig in the story. From the tip of every branch, like a fat purple fig, a wonderful future beckoned and winked. One fig was a husband and a happy home and children, and another fig was a famous poet and another fig a brilliant professor, and another fig was Ee Gee, the amazing editor, and another fig was Europe and Africa and South America, and another fig was Contantin and Socrates and Attila and a pack of other lovers with queer names and offbeat professions, and another fig was an Olympic lady crew champion, and beyond and above were many more figs that I couldn’t quite make out. I saw myself sitting in the crotch of this fig tree, starving to death, just because I couldn’t make up my mind which of the figs I would choose. I wanted each and every one of them, but choosing one meant losing all the rest, and, as I sat there, unable to decide, the figs began to wrinkle and go black, and, one by one, they plopped to the ground at my feet.”

Plath

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Quotable Monday: On Writing by Stephen King


77fceeb85081430f8d7c423dc98632a4Just remember that Dumbo didn’t need the feather; the magic was in him.

Stephen King, On Writing: A Memoir of The Craft

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Happy Father’s Day!

Happy Father’s Day to all of the dads, grandfathers, and men who care for children that possibly aren’t their own!  Your work and role is a very important one and I hope that you all feel loved, appreciated, and celebrated today (and every day) of the year!

To go with the obvious choice (for me), enjoy Sylvia Plath reading “Daddy”! I sweat that I did attempt to find a happy poem, but I just wound up finding some kind of weirdo videos that indicated that they were poems written by children, but wound up containing images of some questionable (yet hilarious) SomeeCards.

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Wear Your Passion: Literary Tees

If you want to display your literary love and preferences through your attire, I highly recommend browsing Etsy.  There are many individuals and vendors offering unique and awesome options.

I picked up this gem from the boredwalk shop out of LA:

image

Girl power to the max, folks!  Do you have any special literature-themed clothing? 

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