The problem with Miranda July is that everything she says or does is great, so editing the interview I did with her the other day has been a bloody nightmare. In this half of our two-part feature Miranda discusses health, drugs, sex, ideas, and – of course – some of the themes in her spectacular new novel The First Bad Man. You know what? Here’s some homework for you: read part one of this interview, then read this, then go read the book. Trust me, you will enjoy all three. Here she is…
How do you relax?
I have a lot of very close women friends and that’s kind of my saving grace. I do prioritise that and go out with them, and have long phone calls and stuff and then I’m really in heaven. I’m not that “work” person at all, I don’t even want to talk about work often and I think I’m like so high from not working that I can sometimes just seem kind of drunk or something. Just foolishly so thrilled to be out that I’m like a really easy date.
When you were in conversation with Lena Dunham you said that someone wrote a review of your book and called you lazy, and that you said you felt like you’d been caught out because you feel lazy. Obviously that’s not true, but have you always felt that way when you’re not doing something?
Yeah, I’m just starting to get into this in therapy and we can only talk about it with the metaphor of an anorexic person feeling like they’re so fat. When we talk about it in terms of me and whether I’m working I always end up saying things like “but you don’t understand, I really secretly don’t work that much.” What doesn’t help is who I married, because my husband works all the time, more than me.
He and I talked about this recently and I was like, “either of us totally could have picked someone who would have been a really great influence in this department and we just weren’t attracted to any of those people.” We’re kind of on a mission together now, if only for our health, to figure this out. Luckily we have a pretty good time, I mean it’s a humour-filled relationship, that now includes a funny little boy. All the stuff we’re doing is totally enjoyable, it’s hard work but it’s exactly what we want to be doing.
"There are things that I've just gotten used to over time about how the creative process works that allows me to endure the insecurities and sort of sniff out when theres too big a problem to overcome."Miranda July
So, you’re really happy at the moment?
Um, yeah. I’d say, yeah I am, I feel like maybe I need to start smoking pot or like, do mushrooms or something? But yeah, other than that, I think I’m really happy.
Why, just to step outside your brain for a minute?
Well, I was at this doctor who’s both an MD and a naturopath in LA. This is like Julia Roberts’ doctor, it’s like this thing in LA that you can do. She was asking “do you drink, do you smoke?” And when it came to smoking I was like, “well I don’t smoke, although that anxiety that I mentioned earlier, I was wondering if maybe I should like be smoking pot?” And because she’s a naturopath the exact answer that I had planned for her was something like – “that’s interesting, given what we’ve discussed maybe that’s something we should look into more.” Instead, she just completely moved on and then prescribed some antibiotics because I had a raging bacterial infection that I didn’t know about.
So she kind of bypassed your comment?
Yeah she did, and many people have pointed out to me that if I wanted some pot they know a doctor who for $40 could give it to me and it’s more or less legal. I was like “NO, I want the doctor, and I wanted to pay like $600 and have this really thoughtful woman give it to me!” I want it to be this careful medicinal thing. So I fantasise a lot about that and I don’t think it’s going to come to anything, but that just happened.
I don’t think many doctors prescribe mushrooms.
Yeah I know! There was an article in The New Yorker that my husband was reading, some science discovering how kind of powerful magic mushrooms are. He paused and said that he thinks this could be the thing to solve all my problems, which after a while I was like “look, I’m fine! I don’t think I need anything that much!”
"I realised that who you end up playing when you fantasise is really pretty loosy goosey."Miranda July
I wanted to ask you about the sexuality that’s in the book, I feel like it’s totally new territory. Did you decide at the beginning you wanted to include sexuality in a big way?
Well, I knew there would be this romantic relationship. In earlier drafts of the book that started a lot earlier on, and kind of played out differently once the fighting started happening. I think organically I had this person who was so wound up and obviously had to have had a lot of anger somewhere inside her. Theres no back-story but y’know, she’s been alone for so long, so I was sort of like “this anger has to come out.” And so she ends up fighting, and that made sense to me.
And because she has this obsessive crush on this man it’s like well, he can have sex with her and she can feel that pleasure, and that all can play out in her mind. And that actually did not feel like a huge leap for me like when I really thought about my own sexual fantasies, and started talking to friends – those who were willing – to talk about theirs, I realised that who you end up playing when you fantasise is really pretty loosy goosey. Sometimes it’s just like a flash of a bunch of images y’know. It’s like, who are you in it? Are you just watching? Is the woman in it you? Or, is it someone who you know, is it someone else? That territory is so wide open that I thought, well, here’s something I can do, something that seems totally kind of radical. But if we’re honest we all know that it really isn’t.
I think also if you’re a woman like her who’s just not born into the right kind of body, or doesn’t sexualise herself, then in a way you almost need a surrogate person, a surrogate you for your fantasies? And, that’s ok. Who’s really having the pleasure in the fantasies usually? It’s the man who’s getting it and getting to enter it and there’s these boobs and this whole thing, and so for her, it seems, I could see it all being part of the crush and the being, like, obsessed with like the sexuality of this man that she invents. All of us need to realise it’s all actually pretty slippery – we are all reorienting ourselves all the time as far as orientation. It’ll kind of be whatever it needs to be in the moment.
You don’t seem to be scared of doing stuff – is that true, or do you have feelings of terror that no one is gonna like what you create?
When I thought of the idea for my app I had a few different ideas. And that’s just the one I got most excited about: for like a day it felt like “these are all good ideas!” And then I was like, actually, “these four are terrible ideas.” I’m doing a big project with ArtAngel here and so for the last few months I’ve been kind of pitching ideas, sending them when I think of them and none of them have been bad, there’s some I might even do in different contexts completely. Ideas tend to like become seeds for other ideas later.
It’s a real process, even the idea that I’ve landed on, and I’m really excited about it. Of course with any new big idea I have tonnes of insecurity about it, and I think what comforts me is thinking “I don’t totally know what this is yet, and I know it’s going to change as I start to do it.” There are things that I’ve just gotten used to over time, about how the creative process works, that allow me to endure the insecurities and sort of sniff out when there’s too big a problem to overcome.
You can buy objects from The First Bad Man and get yours hands on a very special edition of the book over here.