Green Girl, Kate Zambreno, Emergency Press, 2011, 250 pp
I read this novel in the last month of 2017 for two reasons. One is that it had sat, all that year, in a pile of unread books I own; a pile named in my mind Books I Want To Read Soon. The other reason is that in my memoir I am working through my teen years. Oh, what a murky area that is in my mind. Reading novels about teenage girls in the current century helps me recapture those times of confusion, urgency and uncertainty in my own life.
Ruth is a girl on the cusp of womanhood, right about where I was in my college years. She is an American who escaped the downward swirl of her first romantic heartbreak by moving to London. She works as a shop girl in "Horrids," as she calls that famous department store. Her job is to offer samples of a perfume called Desire, a marketing device for an American teenage pop star. She has not resurfaced from the downward swirl but she is trying.
Ruth is beautiful, slender, with long blonde hair. She roams the city feeling the eyes upon her, wondering who she really is. She parties, acts out, makes consecutive bad choices. If you were her mother you would be horrified, anxious, protective, maybe controlling. I am not her mother. I was her in Ann Arbor, MI, pretending to be a college student, partying, trying out different versions of myself, making consecutive bad decisions, some of which I still suffer from today.
The writing is evocative and disjointed. The tone is existential. The images are photographic, like stills from a movie. I felt many emotions, all at war with each other, as I read.
I recalled writers I have read like Clarice Lispector, Sylvia Plath, Lidia Yuknavitch, and many more. Women who explore and express the tangled, grasping, hesitant poetics of desire while creating a self no one in the modern world can give them because she has not existed before.
I am glad I read it.
(Green Girl is available in paperback by order from Once Upon A Time Bookstore.)