Miranda July’s Life Is Literally a Portlandia Episode, One with Lots of Klonopin


Miranda July and Lena Dunham at BAM photo by Rebecca Greenfield c/o BAM
Miranda July and Lena Dunham at BAM
photo by Rebecca Greenfield c/o BAM

“Are you here for the Miranda July event?” the woman asked my companion, grabbing him by the arm. “I’m from New York magazine and we’d love to take your picture and ask a few questions.”

There aren’t many literary events that have New York staffers staking out photogenic attendees, but this wasn’t just any literary event; this was Miranda July in conversation with Lena Dunham (“Brooklyn’s own,” as she was introduced) on the occasion of the release of July’s new book. The event took place at BAM, and had, I was told, “sold out in a second.” And while my friend (who had declined to appear in New York, because he didn’t feel like signing the model release, and because the room he’d been taken to for photos was, he thought, “too quiet”) was surprised that the New York staffer had described the night’s program as being a “Miranda July event” rather than a Lena Dunham one, it was soon pretty clear that the audience had indeed come mainly for July, who was greeted with wild cheers and applause the moment her name was announced from the stage.

July was appearing with Dunham to promote her new novel, The First Bad Man, and from the moment the pair walked onto the stage—July in beautifully tailored, high-waisted black leather pants; Dunham in a sequined pink-and-red shirt that she later called the wearing of “a dick move”—it was easy to tell how close friends they are. In fact, not only are they friends, but they were well-versed in being professionally conversational as well: The duo had done another Q&A in Los Angeles upon the release of Dunham’s memoir, Not That Kind of Girl, and had previously interviewed each other for Interview magazine. The benefit of this kind of intimacy, of course, is that there were no topics off limits—listening to the two talk felt a little bit like listening in to a phone conversation, or reading their gChats. Of course, that was also this event’s downfall, as well—there was very little in the way of challenging questions, let alone anything resembling critique, during the interview, and many audience members left before the event was fully over. Not me, but many others.

But, you know, there was still quite a bit to be learned about July and her book, so here’s a brief rundown:

Miranda July’s Life Is Literally a Portlandia Episode: July told Dunham about an experience she had at a ten-day meditation retreat, during which nobody attending was allowed to speak with anyone else, in which she developed a major sexual longing for another woman at the retreat: “I wanted her fingers, like, in me. She was the powerful butch woman who was very good at meditating, I just knew.” Unfortunately, the woman wound up being a pink-velour-sweatshirt-and-mom jeans-wearing straight housewife, so July’s sexual fantasies remained just that—fantasies. And while Dunham thought that the lesson from that experience was that “if you want it badly enough, you can reduce anyone to someone you love,” it turns out there was yet another lesson to be had: Miranda July’s life makes for the perfect Portlandia episode. July recounted how, years later, she was watching Portlandia and saw the same thing that had happened on her retreat happen to a character on the show. She called her friend Carrie Brownstein to say: “That happened to me!” And then Brownstein told July: “Yeah, we got that from you!” Art, you guys, it really imitates life! At least when your life is Miranda July’s.

Miranda July Wrote a Sex Scene That Made Lena Dunham Use Air Quotes: Yes, air quotes! And they were around the word “triggering.” Or “‘triggering.'” Anyway, there’s a sex scene in the novel that apparently upends the way women usually think about sex, in the sense that the woman in the novel who is thinking about sex is thinking about fucking a woman like a man. But not just any man, Dunham explained, like a “frat guy.” Which, as I guess we’re all supposed to know by now, means only one thing. But in order to be extra clear, Dunham assured the audience, that the “triggering” sexual fantasy in the book had nothing to do with the way the “cardiganed gentlemen here tonight” would fuck a woman. Because, obviously, nobody in a cardigan could ever do anything perverse, right? Right?

Miranda July Might Need to Prepare for a Lawsuit: July and Dunham lightly danced around the fact that Dunham has faced (what, in my opinion, are absurd) legal ramifications for things she wrote in her memoir, and Dunham asked July if there was anything she was worried about along those lines with her novel. July said that she expected some blowback from adoption agencies, maybe, but that she wasn’t too worried. She then added, “Besides, everything you’re wrongly accused of, I’m pretty sure I did do.” Hm.

Everyone Loves Klonopin: So, in case you’re wondering what the pill du jour among the writerly set on tour (which July pronounces “too-er”) is, wonder no more! It’s Klonopin. Both July and Dunham reminisced about freaking out when their supply was gone and they really, really, REALLY needed it to sleep and just slow their damned minds down. Lest you worry that they never got to rest, don’t: They did. They both just manically called everyone they knew, promising that they weren’t drug addicts, but that they needed their pills, and—luckily—they got those prescription pills without any prescription. All of which means that my main takeaway from the night was that the sharing economy works. And that maybe I should take more Klonopin. The end.

Follow Kristin Iversen on twitter @kmiversen


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