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Sunday, December 6, 2015

=Book Recently Given Up On: The First Bad Man by Miranda July=

When Virginia Woolf argued so passionately that women should have a room of their own, it surely wasn't in order to cook up insignificant porridge like this. What you ought to read instead is anything by Genesis P-Orridge. Here's something:

I'd previously read—and liked—July's short story collection No One Belongs Here More Than You—so I had big expectations for this novel. What an appalling disappointment! What happened to her? Maybe I misunderstood; maybe this wasn't supposed to be actual literature, but I could've sworn it was sold as such. Christ, you don't need a room of your own to write crap like The First Bad Man; any bathroom or kitchen table will do, even with the baby squalling and the husband growling for his stew. 

Even this book would be a better choice

The first red flag was the enthusiastic blurb on the back cover by Lena Dunham, that new arbiter of literary taste in our time. Egads! My only hope was that she hadn't really read the book, that she was just tossing out blurbs as a favor to the publisher, but, yikes, maybe she actually did read it. It's surely every bit as inane as her own "books." I like her dad's paintings, though. Carroll Dunham, check him out.

The First Bad Man is just bad writing. It really is. It could have been written for a typical reader of "Seventeen" magazine, except even when I was seventeen I wasn't as shallow and pedestrian as this. And the main character of this novel isn't seventeen—she's in her early 40s!  With its hokey-dokey romance and the relentlessly grating voice of its sappy, sad-sack heroine keening for your sympathy on every page, it's a summer beach read at best, where the sound of the waves can instantly drown it out. But this isn't summer and I'm not at the beach. I don't know what kind of woman this novel is aimed at but it's not a thinking one. (Note to publishers & authors: Hell hath no fury like an intelligent reader scorned). I couldn't plow on beyond the second chapter. Life is too short to have gone any further. How short? Let me graph it for you:

Age        % of life remaining (based on average human 
             lifespan of 78 years)

10          87
20          74
30          61
35          55
40          48
45          42
50          35
55          29
60          23
65          16
70          10
75            3

Note: This graph does not take into account quality of life. Unless you've taken really good care of yourself or are blessed with sound genetics, the last 5-10 years of your life are often ones of ever steepening physical and mental decline, accompanied by corrosive grief over the loss of loved ones who didn't take really good care of themselves or weren't blessed with sound genetics (or better luck). That is to say, at some point in your last decade, chances are that you aren't enjoying yourself much, i.e., that you are actively in the process of dying. So wherever you fall on the graph you might want to take off 5 to 10%. That should help get you dialed in to what's really important. Do the math or keep your eyes squeezed tight to the truth. There's a LOT less time to waste than you think.  

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