All Fours by Miranda July - review by Lamorna Ash

Lamorna Ash

Flight of Fantasy

All Fours


Canongate 336pp £20

Fantasy benders. This is what the unnamed protagonist of Miranda July’s second novel, All Fours, calls her mental flights into weird, funny and often erotic alternate realities. ‘You can’t have everything you want, but you can want everything you want’, another woman tells her when she describes all this unsatisfied
desire roiling inside her. She attributes the line to Simone de Beauvoir, but really it is a bastardisation of a much-cited quotation from one of de Beauvoir’s love letters: ‘I want everything from life. I want to be a woman and to be a man, to have many friends and to have loneliness, to work much and write good books’. But, she concludes, ‘it is difficult to get all which I want. And then when I do not succeed I get mad with anger.’ You can want all you want, but, left unenacted, such wanting might drive you insane. 

Like July, the unnamed protagonist achieved ‘success in several mediums at a young age and has continued very steadily, always circling her central concerns in a sort of ecstatic fugue state’. July’s own body of work, which comprises film, text and performance art, has always provided a space for her characters to act out their private fantasies, through roleplay, simulation and dance. In her first feature film, Me and You and Everyone We Know (2005), the protagonist (played by July, awkward and earnest in all her acting work) is a performance artist who in one short scene engages in a shared fantasy with a stranger of a whole life lived out together – it ends as they part ways to find their cars. In her first novel, The First Bad Man (2015), the protagonist and her tenant re-enact (word for word, motion for motion) 1990s videos instructing women how to fight back when men try to assault them. In her most recent feature film, Kajillionaire (2020), the unconventional family at its centre play-act a normal family scenario with imaginary cake on real plates. All Fours, by contrast, explores what happens when desire collides with reality – real cake on real plates.  

It opens with the promise of a road trip. The 45-year-old protagonist (she imagines this age to be the ‘midpoint’ of her life: ‘a body rises, reaches an apex, and then falls’) intends to leave her husband and child in Los Angeles for two-and-a-half weeks, drive to New

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