On an evening late last month, the multifaceted artist Miranda July celebrated a milestone years in the making. Her second novel, All Fours, will be published next spring, and to celebrate, she gathered a star-studded group of friends and literary luminaries at the Library at the Public, the seductively lit bar above the Public Theater’s bustling lobby. In front of a crowd that included David Byrne, Tavi Gevinson, Busy Philipps, Annie Hamilton, and Bobbi Salvör Menuez, July discussed the book’s long road to publication with novelist and New Yorker staff writer Elif Batuman.
Before heading to the party, where she wore a black-and-gold Miu Miu skirt suit, July told Vanity Fair that she was looking forward to seeing a physical copy of the book’s galley for the first time. “I can’t believe I’m not at my desk at home writing it,” she said. “I think Elif is such a great writer, and I relate to her. I’d love to talk to Elif anyways about this book and about what she’s writing.”
Though July is best known for her off-kilter films, she established herself as a frank and peculiar fiction writer with a 2007 collection of short stories, No One Belongs Here More Than You, and her 2015 debut novel, The First Bad Man. In conversation with Batuman, July explained that her second novel began partially as a lengthy research project.
The novel, which follows a 40-something woman on a journey of self-discovery after leaving her husband, grew out of July’s 2017 short story, “The Metal Bowl,” published in The New Yorker. But before the book took its final form, she took a long detour into menopause research. Referencing “Women Have Been Misled About Menopause,” a February 2023 feature by Susan Dominus of The New York Times Magazine, July explained that she had previously come to a similar conclusion, and it consumed her as she wrote the book.
“I did all this research. I interviewed many, many gynecologists. I interviewed naturopaths. I interviewed older women about their experience of this time,” she said. “I really thought I was going to somehow get that article into the book.” Ultimately, she dropped much of the research, though it still informed her narrator’s voice and experiences. “After about that year of work, I recalled that this was a fiction book,” she quipped. “The truth is, my narrator—she’s sort of horrified by the whole thing…. She only cares to the extent that it affects her desires and plans for herself.”
She later thanked her editor at the publishing house Riverhead for reminding her that novels do have a particular purpose. “There was a conversation we had where I said, ‘I don’t understand why this can’t all be boiled down into an informational pamphlet,’” July said, before the audience erupted into laughter. “I was serious. There was no laughter in that room, and it wasn’t that kind of conversation. She had to walk me through it, and I wrote it down, because it was on my desk for months: People like to read novels. Because I didn’t believe it! But they like the journey of what happens.”
Seeing aging as risky and adventurous might explain why July chose the book’s cover art, a 19th-century Albert Bierstadt painting showing a cliff and the river valley below. “I’m talking perimenopause, menopause, these words—it’s the idea that there might actually be something kind of hot in all that. That’s a very well-kept secret,” she said. “It’s wide open. It’s a little like the Wild West as far as like, Oh, no one’s framed this, or they’ve done it so poorly that no one’s wanted to frame it.”