Miranda July on bad men, Playboy and the creative process
On January 29, a capacity crowd took sanctuary from the snowy weather outside to see Miranda July, acclaimed filmmaker, artist, and bestselling author of No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories at the Bram and Bluma Appel Salon. Author Sheila Heti joined July on the Bram & Bluma Appel Salon stage to discuss July’s debut novel, The First Bad Man.
Heti and July shared a breezy conversation that touched on everything from the eccentricity of the characters in The First Bad Man, to opinions on love and capitalism, to July’s multi-faceted career and an unpublished article she wrote for Playboy. As interviewer and interviewee relaxed into their roles, fans enjoyed insights into July’s creative process in completing her novel.
“It is so important to hear her speak. [July] has a distinct voice… She is a performer and it’s a different [experience] then reading her on a page. Plus it’s cool to post my signed book on social media.” said an enthused Josclyn, a fan since writing a paper on July’s short stories for her American Literature class.
“Seeing her in person, you notice a constancy throughout her works. She’s a little off the wall and surreal but, at the same time, her work contains a realness,” said long-time fan Philip. “It’s really great to see her in a social atmosphere and interact with other fans.”
July, whose style is often described as quirky, has a unique ability to depict the most routine, everyday actions in interesting and thought-provoking ways. Her characters are infused with curious charm.
“Do all women have a first bad man? One who wrecks them or steers the course of their sexual life or fantasy life?” asked Heti.
“I think it makes it, like, seem really, really special when you pick someone who isn’t a bad choice… Because you're like 'This is so unlike me, You're not a narcissist at all!'” replied a joking, self-chiding July.
July dabbles in a spectrum of artistic realms; her resume is extensive, assorted, and internationally recognized. From New York to Rotterdam, Venice to Tokyo, highlights of her work include:
- The First Bad Man (2015) – July’s debut novel about a tightly wound, 40-year-old women, Cheryl, whose world explodes when her boss’s cruel but beautiful daughter unexpectedly moves in.
- Somebody (2014) – A public art project in the form of an app. Your text message gets sent through the ‘somebody’ user nearest the intended recipient; that ‘somebody’ delivers the message verbally.
- The Future (2011) – written and directed by, and starring Miranda July, this film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival.
- The Hallway (2008) – A 125-foot hallway where wooden blocks of text act as your inner voice. Displayed in The Hara Museum of Contemporary Art, Tokyo, Japan.
- No One Belongs Here More Than You: Stories (2007) - A collection of short stories earning July the Frank O’Connor International Short Story Award.
- Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005) - Written and directed by Miranda July, this film won a number of awards including the Camera d’Or prize at the Cannes Film Festival and the Special Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival.
During the Q&A portion of the evening, audience members picked July’s brain to find out how she decides which projects to start. July generally likes to rotate projects to maintain her status as a writer and filmmaker. “I know it sounds silly but it’s all very tenuous for me because I am not completely taken seriously in any of these worlds. Well… it’s getting better!”
Bringing the conversation full circle, July ended the evening on a sentimental note as she reminisced about parallels between the conclusion of The First Bad Man, the wrap of the novel as a project, and the closing of the first chapter of her son’s life. With tears in her eyes, she let the audience know, “Ugh! I’m such a softy.”
If you missed the event, or want to relive it, the interview is available on our YouTube channel.
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