By Miranda July
The first sentence of Miranda July’s debut novel, “The First Bad Man,” suggests the almost surreal self-absorption of its problematic narrator: “I drove to the doctor’s office as if I was starring in a movie Phillip was watching.”
Cheryl ― 43, single and childless ― has a crush on Phillip, a rich, aging hippie who sits on the board of the Los Angeles nonprofit where she works and lusts after a 16-year-old girl. She’s on her way to the doctor ― actually, a New Age practitioner of color therapy ― because she suffers from globus hystericus, the anxiety-induced feeling of a lump in her throat that makes it hard to swallow. She has other problems as well: She secretly communes with babies ― even fetuses ― and believes that she and Phil were lovers in past lives.
Over the course of this uneven novel, Cheryl will become reasonably normal and happy but only after she has endured a number of symbolically charged ordeals. She’ll perform martial arts-style sparring that will leave her battered and bruised but feeling unaccountably empowered. (AP)