Saturday, October 1, 2022

Green Girl by Kate Zambreno


I found this book on a list of transgressive women's fiction. GREEN GIRL, by the author's definition, is sort of like a depressed ingenue. Picture a Shirley Manson music video or any '90s Winona Ryder character, and that's basically our heroine, Ruth. She is a sad clown, but in girl form. There's no real plot to GREEN GIRL. In the afterword, it seems like this character was written with the old cinema trope of the "shopgirl" in mind, and I can see that; it's a symbolism that's forcibly emphasized with epigrams from old Hollywood movies.

GREEN GIRL is a good book but if you don't like "unlikable" female characters or stream-of-consciousness, character-driven stories, you won't like this book. Sometimes the writing style could be grating but most of the time I really loved it. There's a sort of poetry to the writing, which I think is why this book is being compared to THE BELL JAR. Some people are saying this is a bad comparison but I don't think it is. Both books are about women who are depressed and don't really know how to even really exist in the midst of all their exhaustion. The only difference is the zeitgeist, and what ennui looks like in different decades, in different venues.

I used to read a lot of literary fiction when I was younger and still defined myself by the media that I consumed, but I stopped because most of the voices getting lauded were white, cis-gendered men, and when only one sort of voice is dominating the narrative, things can get a little boring. I wish I'd had more access to books like these when I was a younger woman: books about women who aren't happy, who struggle to exist, who aren't good people but who are still entitled to their stories. Reading GREEN GIRL made me appreciate that now, we're finally starting to get those stories and they're finally getting some airspace-- not just for white women, but for the LGBT+ and women of color, too.

If you know of any other books about women toiling under the weight of their malaise, please send me recs. Books like WHITE OLEANDER and THE BELL JAR made me realize that yes, I actually do enjoy literary fiction if the stories resonate and the characters are interesting.

3 to 3.5 out of 5 stars

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