In “All Fours”, Miranda July Reveals How a Spontaneous Choice Can Change Everything (Exclusive)

In an exclusive excerpt from her new novel, we see how far away from home we can get without going very far at all

<p>Elizabeth Weinberg; Riverhead Books</p> Miranda July and

Elizabeth Weinberg; Riverhead Books

Miranda July and 'All Fours'

Society is, and always has been, fascinated by the artist's life. And Miranda July's newest novel, All Fours, validates and rewards that fascination in spades.

The book follows an artist entering middle age with all of the angst that often entails. She decides to take a solo cross-country road trip from their home in Los Angeles to New York, but 30 minutes after waving goodbye to her husband and child, she finds herself pulling off the freeway in a nondescript town, where she finds herself on an adventure none of them could have predicted.

What follows is a self-discovery story like no other. There's a dalliance with a local, a motel room redecoration, and enough kooky hijinks to keep readers frantically flipping pages to find out where all of this leads.

Below, read an exclusive excerpt to get a taste of how it all began.

<p>Riverhead Books</p> 'All Fours' by Miranda July

Riverhead Books

'All Fours' by Miranda July

Sorry to trouble you, was how the note began, which is such a good opener. Please, trouble me! Trouble me! I’ve been waiting my whole life to be troubled by a note like this. 

Sorry to trouble you but it looked like someone was using a telephoto lens to take pictures through your windows from the street. If it was someone you know, then sorry for the misunderstanding, if not, though, I got the make/model/license of their vehicle.

Brian (from next door) and his phone number

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You don't really need a telephoto lens because we have giant windows in front with no curtains. Sometimes I pause before coming inside and watch Harris and Sam innocently going about their business. Harris mutely explaining something to Sam, or lifting Sam into the air. I feel such tenderness toward them. Try to remember this feeling, I say to myself. They are the same people up close as they are from here.

We all immediately knew which neighbor Brian was. The FBI neighbor. If there's one thing we've learned from Brian it's that being in the FBI is not a secret like the CIA. He wears his (bulletproof?) FBI vest with the letters FBI on it way more than could possibly be required. It's like if someone on the Dodgers wore his uniform to water the lawn. All the neighbors would be like, We get it, dude, you're on the Dodgers.

So the first thing Harris did after I read the note aloud was scoff that of course the FBI neighbor had "caught" someone with a "telephoto lens." And the second thing Harris did was nothing. He was busy and didn't think it was worth pursuing.

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"It's a little creepy, though, right?"

"People take pictures of everything these days," he said, walking out of the room.

"Do you think I should call him, though?"

But Harris didn't hear me.

"Call who?" said Sam.

I stood holding the note with that funny little abandoned feeling one gets a million times a day in a domestic setting. I could have cried, but why? It's not like I need to dish with my husband about every little thing; that's what friends are for. Harris and I are more formal, like two diplomats who aren't sure if the other one has poisoned our drink. Forever thirsty but forever wanting the other one to take the first sip.

You go.

No, you go ahead!

No, please, after you.

<p>Elizabeth Weinberg</p> Miranda July

Elizabeth Weinberg

Miranda July

This sort of walking on eggshells might sound stressful, but I was pretty sure we would have the last laugh. When everyone else was sick to death of each other we'd be just breaking through, having our honeymoon. Probably in our sixties.

My friend Cassie says Love you! every time she gets off the phone with her husband. Whenever I overhear this I'm completely mortified for her.

But I do love him, she says.

You were just talking about how miserable and stuck you felt.

Then she kind of laughs as if it's all out of her hands. I don't expect her to be honest with her husband but at least come clean with me. Other people's relationships never make any sense. 

Once I got my best friend, Jordi, to record a casual conversation between her wife and her. Jordi is a brilliant sculptor who can convincingly theorize about anything, but in this conversation she barely said a word while her wife ranted about the idiocy of a popular TV show. Only occasionally would Jordi murmur a question; mostly she just giggled at the things Mel said. I thought she might be embarrassed, but she wasn't.

"I love how sure of herself Mel is. I love opinionated people. Like you."

This was so flattering that I instantly warmed up to their dynamic.

"That show really is flawed," I said. "Mel nailed it."

My friends are always obliging me with ephemera like this— screenshots of sexts, emails to their mothers — because I'm forever wanting to know what it feels like to be other people. What were we all doing? What the hell was going on here on Earth? Of course none of these artifacts really amounted to anything; it was like trying to grab smoke by its handle. What handle?

I put the neighbor's note on my desk. I was busy, too, but I always have time to worry. In fact, I think I had already been worrying about someone using a telephoto lens to take pictures through our windows when the note arrived. Worrying is the wrong word —more like hoping. I hoped this was happening and had been happening since my birth, or something along these lines. If not this man through the windows, then God, or my parents, or my real parents, who are actually just my parents, or the real me, who has been waiting for the right moment to take over, tap me out. Just please let there be someone who cares enough to watch over me. It took me two days to call Brian the neighbor because I was busy savoring my position, like when a crush finally texts back and you want to enjoy having the ball in your court for a while.

"It feels funny to call someone who lives right next door," I said. "I could have just opened the window."

"I'm not at home right now."


He said the man had parked around the corner and that he had not photographed any other homes.

"He may have just been admiring your house," Brian suggested.

I didn't like that. I mean, it's a nice house, but come on. I didn't spend the last two days not calling because our house is nice.

"I'm a bit of a public figure," I said, going a little heavy on the false modesty. False modesty is one of those things that's hard to go easy on, like squirting whipped cream from a can. He said that's why he was concerned, because of my notoriety. I humbly replied, "Well, thank you, it's really so nice to know you're keeping your eye on things."

"It's literally my job," Brian said.

"Right," I said, snapping out of it. I'm not a household name. I won't go into the tedious specifics of what I do, but picture a woman who had 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 with the confidence that comes from knowing there is no other path – her whole life will be this single conversation with God.

God might be the wrong word for it. The Universe. The Undernetting. I work in our converted garage. One leg of my desk is shorter than the others and every day for the past 15 years I've meant to wedge something under it, but every day my work is too urgent — I'm perpetually at a crucial turning point; everything is forever about to be revealed. At five o'clock I have to consciously dial myself down before reentering the house, like astronaut Buzz Aldrin preparing to unload the dishwasher immediately after returning from the moon. Don't talk about the moon, I remind myself. Ask everyone how their day was.

Adapted from ALL FOURS (Riverhead Books, May 14, 2024). Copyright © 2024 by Miranda July.

All Fours by Miranda July is out May 14 from Riverhead Books, and is available for preorder now, wherever books are sold.

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