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Animators Survival Kit

Miranda July

About The Author

Miranda July is a filmmaker, artist and writer. Her videos, performances, and web-based projects have been presented at sites such as the Museum of Modern Art, the Guggenheim Museum, and in two Whitney Biennials. July wrote, directed and starred in the film Me and You and Everyone We Knew (2005), which won a special jury prize at the Sundance Film Festival and the Camera d'Or at the Cannes Film Festival. Her fiction has appeared in the Paris Review, Harper's, and The New Yorker; her 2007 collection of stories No One Belongs Here More Than You, won the Frank O'Connor International Short Story Award. July created the participatory website learningtloveyoumore with artist Harrell Fletcher, and a companion book was published in 2007. Raised in Berkeley, California, she currently lives in Los Angeles. Her second feature film, The Future, was released in the summer of 2011.

Her debut novel, The First Bad Man, features Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable middle-aged woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, and is obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit organisation where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one. When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes.

We chatted to Miranda exclusively for Foyles, about the process that took her from college dropout to artist, film-maker and author; the 'sweaty high-wire act' that is live performance, and why it's important for her fictional creations to be scared.

Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.

When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual obsession and fierce maternal love, Miranda July’s first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time. The First Bad Man is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-First-Bad-Man/Miranda-July/9781439172568#sthash.xwmpEUjc.dpuf
Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.

When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual obsession and fierce maternal love, Miranda July’s first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time. The First Bad Man is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-First-Bad-Man/Miranda-July/9781439172568#sthash.xwmpEUjc.dpuf
Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.

When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual obsession and fierce maternal love, Miranda July’s first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time. The First Bad Man is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-First-Bad-Man/Miranda-July/9781439172568#sthash.xwmpEUjc.dpuf
Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.

When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual obsession and fierce maternal love, Miranda July’s first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time. The First Bad Man is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-First-Bad-Man/Miranda-July/9781439172568#sthash.xwmpEUjc.dpuf

 

Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.

When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual obsession and fierce maternal love, Miranda July’s first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time. The First Bad Man is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-First-Bad-Man/Miranda-July/9781439172568#sthash.xwmpEUjc.dpuf
Here is Cheryl, a tightly-wound, vulnerable woman who lives alone, with a perpetual lump in her throat. She is haunted by a baby boy she met when she was six, who sometimes recurs as other people’s babies. Cheryl is also obsessed with Phillip, a philandering board member at the women’s self-defense nonprofit where she works. She believes they’ve been making love for many lifetimes, though they have yet to consummate in this one.

When Cheryl’s bosses ask if their twenty-one-year-old daughter, Clee, can move into her house for a little while, Cheryl’s eccentrically ordered world explodes. And yet it is Clee—the selfish, cruel blond bombshell—who bullies Cheryl into reality and, unexpectedly, provides her the love of a lifetime.

Tender, gripping, slyly hilarious, infused with raging sexual obsession and fierce maternal love, Miranda July’s first novel confirms her as a spectacularly original, iconic, and important voice today, and a writer for all time. The First Bad Man is dazzling, disorienting, and unforgettable. - See more at: http://books.simonandschuster.com/The-First-Bad-Man/Miranda-July/9781439172568#sthash.xwmpEUjc.dpuf

Questions & Answers


What was the process that took you from college dropout to artist, film-maker and author? How did college differ from your expectations?

I dropped out of college because it was taking too much time away from my “work”. Perhaps because my parents ran their own business out of our house I started out with this hyper-professional mindset; the thought of a student production just embarrassed me, so when I began writing and directing plays in high school I put them at an all-ages local punk club – not fancy, but I was in charge. I rented chairs, placed ads in the paper, cast adult actors. I made good friends in college, but work-wise I just wanted to get on with it. After I dropped out I started an underground distribution network for girls and women making movies, Joanie 4 Jackie. I hunted down their movies and compiled them and resdistributed among each other so that we could have a context within to think of ourselves as filmmakers (pre-YouTube). I did this for ten years, while performing, writing, making my own short movies. Eventually I wrote a feature-length movie called Me and You and Everyone We Know and this expanded my audience a bit but I‘m still more or less doing what I did in high school.

 

You’ve said, ‘It’s hard to fully take someone seriously in each medium. You just want them to be really good at one thing and then you can believe they care.’ How do you reconcile this with your multi-disciplinary career?

In truth I don’t think what I’m doing is so terribly unusual. Phillipe Perreno, Jeremy Deller, Sophie Calle, Pierre Huyghe – there are many artists who work move between installations, videos, books, collaborations with the public, etc. But they manage to make all this work in the context of the art world. In my twenties some punky part of me thought the art world was too elitist (also I really knew nothing about it). I wanted to make things that a kid anywhere could buy and I suppose because of my parents' home-business, one of my interests is in the industries themselves – filmmaking with its unions and budgets and marketing fanfare; publishing with its slow schedule that reflects the time it takes to actually read a book. Live performance – a sweaty high-wire act that never fails to make me feel like I’m girl in A Chorus Line. And how could I not take each of these mediums seriously and try to push them further  – their histories demand it.

 

Is there a connection between your different careers and the theme of role-playing in the book, which encompasses many of the characters on both conscious and subconscious levels?

Yeah, maybe. I certainly always feel like a novice in each medium, because I’m usually coming back to it after a break of many years. And there’s something liberating about that feeling of playing a role, of dismissing the idea of “real”. It’s scary too, and I liked for my characters to be scared like this, forced out of who they thought they were.

 

What was the starting image for your book?

The plot for the book came to me in one big rush, on a car ride. Granted it took me years and at least one false start to get to that lucky car ride, but I still have the page of notes that describe all the stages in the relationship between these two women who were just called “Blonde” and “Older” at that point.

 

When things really flow for Cheryl, her ‘days become dreamlike, no edges anywhere, none of the snags and snafus that life is so famous for. After days and days alone it gets silky to the point where I can’t even feel myself anymore, it’s as if I don’t exist.’ Is this a state to which you aspire? Have you experienced it yourself?

Yes, I like it. I liked living alone and spending days in my own world. That’s one reason I still have the house I lived in before I met my husband – I go there every day. But for me, and to a much greater extent Cheryl, that state can easily slip in to a sort of disassociative paralysis. You forget your options. You forget how free you actually are, that you can leave, that you can call a friend, take a walk, dance, listen to music. The main challenge of my life is just to remember how free I actually am. I spend a crazy amount of time sitting very still like a rabbit playing dead so a wolf won’t see it.

 

Was any kind of physical contact better than nothing for Cheryl, especially given that she was having to endure her beloved colleague’s descriptions of his own physical contact with someone else? Or is there another dynamic at work here?

I don’t think it’s that unusual for a man to describe a crush to an unavailable female friend. It’s easy to talk to women, and if that woman has a crush on you she’ll want to be your confidante. It’s also a way to flirt or assert power, a way to sexualize a relationship without crossing any lines. Of course I took this to the extreme in Phillip and Cheryl’s relationship, but I think what’s most unique about that dynamic is that Cheryl’s unknowingness allows her to not just endure each challenge, but actually put it to use. She eventually draws erotic power from this dynamic that she uses in radical ways.

 

Was Cheryl’s job at a company that specialises in self-defence videos for women, inspired by some of the books your parents published, including one on ‘internal martial arts’?

Ha, no – I was drawing from a sort of cult of self-defence that was popular in Portland in the mid-nineties. But the idea of a business run by an intense couple, a couple that has a daughter – is very much drawn from my own life.

 

You have described the writing of the book as ‘torture’, what wasn’t working out?

The first draft was tough because it was my first novel and I didn’t know that better days were just around the corner. I thought the writing would be good from the start, like with a short story. So for eight months it was torture. Then I spent two years rewriting that first draft and that was a relatively happy time. Not easy, but never not interesting and certainly not torture.

 

Parenting in myriad forms – neglectful, surrogate, absent, vengeful - seems to be a particularly complicated affair in this book. How conscious was this a theme from the outset?

I knew from the start there would be a baby in the book. I don’t think I ever thought of it as a book about parenthood, but I did become a mother over the course of writing it and this inevitably thrust me into the hottest part of the fire. I was thinking hard about how people are made – biologically, through their own fantasies, through trauma and love. The facts of embryogenesis are both mundane and fantastical  –  it seemed possible to combine the traditional sperm/egg story with this one woman’s powers of invention.

 

And just to finish off, could you tell us what you’re reading at the moment and which are the books that you return to again and again?

I’m not in the middle of a thick novel right now – I’m dipping in and out of some art books that might vaguely relate to various future projects. These include Anecdoted Topography by Daniel Spoerri and Arthur Tress: The Dream Collector. Fictionwise I often return to Alice Munro, Lydia Davis, EM Forrestor (any) and Julie Hecht’s Was This Man A Genius?

 

Available Titles By This Author

The First Bad Man
(Paperback)
Miranda July
 
 
£8.99
 
The First Bad Man
(Hardback)
Miranda July
 
£14.99
 
No One Belongs Here More Than You
(Paperback)
Miranda July
 
 
£8.99
 
Learning to Love You More
(Paperback)
Miranda July; Harrell Fletcher
 
 
£14.99
 
It Chooses You
(Paperback)
Miranda July
 
 
£16.99
 

Past Events for this Author

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