Adultery Gets Weird in Miranda July’s New Novel

ALL FOURS, by Miranda July

Erica Jong’s Isadora Wing feared flying, but womanned up to attend the first psychoanalytic conference in Vienna since the Holocaust. Fifty years later, the unnamed heroine of Miranda July’s new novel, “All Fours” — let’s call her Amanda Huggenkiss — can barely begin a cross-country road trip.

Huggenkiss — aah, never mind — the anonymous narrator is five years from 50 herself: a “semi-famous” artist with a desk that’s a little wobbly and a career to match. “I worked in so many mediums that I was able to debut many times,” she recounts. “I just kept emerging, like a bud opening over and over again.”

She’s married to a music producer, Harris, who divides people up not into hedgehogs and foxes but Drivers and Parkers. The former, like himself, are functional and content. The latter, like his wife, are bored by ordinary life but, craving applause, thrive in tight spots and emergencies.

One was the birth of their baby, Sam (a nonbinary “theyby”), after the kind of fetal-maternal hemorrhage that often results in stillbirth. Mrs. Harris is ecstatic about her child, now a second grader — taking weekly candlelit baths with them, she weeps with love — but she feels her parenting efforts, which include massaging kale for a five-part bento box lunch, go underrecognized or criticized. And her sex life, which is dependent on fantasy, a.k.a. “mind-rooted,” has suffered. Sometimes when she delays initiating, she can hear her body-rooted husband’s penis “whistling impatiently like a teakettle.”

After a whiskey company unexpectedly licenses one of her saucy sentences for $20,000, she decides to splurge for her birthday on a room at the Carlyle, the fancy-pants hotel on New York’s Upper East Side. But, starting from Los Angeles, she only makes it as far as a motel in the nearby suburb of Monrovia. And that’s when things get weird in that Miranda July way that some critics find the ne plus ultra of twee (Harris twee?) and I happen to enjoy very much, with a few caveats.

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