Miranda July Explores the Transformative Powers of Embodying a Man

The writer/director/artist discusses gender politics in her striking, sexual debut novel, The First Bad Man.

Miranda July wearing bright orange top and black pants in front of colorful canvas
(Image credit: Getty Images)

If you haven't seen You Me and Everyone We Know or read the collected short stories in No One Belongs Here More Than You, you're missing out. But now you have a new chance to redeem yourself: The creative genius behind them, Miranda July, has just released her first novel, The First Bad Man, proving she can do literally anything. Here, a quick look inside her brain.

Marie Claire: Without giving too much away, there's a very unexpected sexual relationship at the book's heart. What fueled it?
Miranda July: 
The fact that we are not necessarily ourselves, or even our own gender, in fantasies. [I wanted to explore the idea that] a woman could essentially embody a man, take on his sexual power in a way that transforms her life.

MC: You were pregnant while writing, and the story involves a birth. Did the baby have an impact?
I had the initial idea maybe six months before I got pregnant. I knew I was going to try to have a baby in the future, and I thought, Well, there's something new that I'll be able to mine. I actually left things blank in the first draft with notes: "I'll know something about this in a matter of weeks! No point in faking it now!"

MC: What kind of early feedback did you get?
 The first people I shared it with were strangers. I was trying to get a sense of how this played—like screening a movie in front of an audience. Finally, I got comfortable enough to show it to other writers. My good friend Sheila Heti was a huge support. Her notes were essentially, "Spend about seven more years on it." Lena Dunham and I traded books, and she gave me like five specific and clear notes. It really surprised me. I completely used them.

MC: What else are you working on?
 The First Bad Man Store (thefirstbadman.com). Objects described in the book are being auctioned online, and proceeds go to a women and children's charity. So if it gets crazy and people spend hundreds of dollars on a bobby pin, it won't seem like we're terrible people. 

This article appears in the February 2015 issue of Marie Claire, on newsstands now. 

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