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Green Girl: A Novel

Green Girl: A Novel

3.1 6
by Kate Zambreno

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With the fierce emotional and intellectual power of such classics as Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star, Kate Zambreno's novel Green Girl is a provocative, sharply etched portrait of a young woman navigating the spectrum between anomie and


With the fierce emotional and intellectual power of such classics as Jean Rhys's Good Morning, Midnight, Sylvia Plath's The Bell Jar, and Clarice Lispector's The Hour of the Star, Kate Zambreno's novel Green Girl is a provocative, sharply etched portrait of a young woman navigating the spectrum between anomie and epiphany.

First published in 2011 in a small press edition, Green Girl was named one of the best books of the year by critics including Dennis Cooper and Roxane Gay. In Bookforum, James Greer called it "ambitious in a way few works of fiction are." This summer it is being republished in an all-new Harper Perennial trade paperback, significantly revised by the author, and including an extensive P.S. section including never before published outtakes, an interview with the author, and a new essay by Zambreno.

Zambreno's heroine, Ruth, is a young American in London, kin to Jean Seberg gamines and contemporary celebutantes, by day spritzing perfume at the department store she calls Horrids, by night trying desperately to navigate a world colored by the unwanted gaze of others and the uncertainty of her own self-regard. Ruth, the green girl, joins the canon of young people existing in that important, frightening, and exhilarating period of drift and anxiety between youth and adulthood, and her story is told through the eyes of one of the most surprising and unforgettable narrators in recent fiction—a voice at once distanced and maternal, indulgent yet blackly funny. And the result is a piercing yet humane meditation on alienation, consumerism, the city, self-awareness, and desire, by a novelist who has been compared with Jean Rhys, Virginia Woolf, and Elfriede Jelinek.

Editorial Reviews

“The young woman’s existential novel for the new millennium. The book is smart, experimental, and just a little bit dangerous . . . It’s a must-read for anyone who’s ever wanted a 21st century update to the Bell Jar. . . Reading it will resonate.”
L.A. Review of Books
“…elegant, crystalline, eminently readable…”
“…a fresh and important new voice in literature… Ambitious but difficult to pin down, smart, stylish, and filled with supercharged prose that pulsed with the searing intensity few writers could maintain throughout an entire book...”
Shelf Awareness
“A deeply character-driven book, Green Girl allows its narrator to insert herself with pity, scorn or deliberate self-recognition, as though a god watching her creating crawl fitfully through the city streets...
The Millions
“Zambreno’s novel unfolds with a filmic quality, of scenes playing out with lyric intensity.”
“This is Zambreno in high form, unrelenting in her emotional sincerity and intellectual acuity, a necessary voice in a still green world.”
James Greer
“A major step forward for a talented and whip-smart writer.”
Elissa Schappell
“I can’t recall the last time I read a book whose heroine infuriated and seduced me as completely as Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl.”
Gina Frangello
“[An] electric talent . . . a risqué darling [with] serious literary cachet.”
Lightsey Darst
“If you were ever a green girl, you will recognize yourself on page after page.”
Tim Jones-Yelvington
“It cracks, it zings. It makes you call your girlfriend and read sections aloud over the phone.”
Roxane Gay
“The best word to describe Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl is searing. . . A novel about a young woman who is learning how to perform her femininity, who is learning the power of it, the fragility of it.”
Blake Butler
“Brilliant. . . This is a book I could see savored by both a teen finding great solace in, and by someone like myself, who probably could not be more removed from the lifestyle of its matter.”
Pamela Lu
“Kate Zambreno writes with the clear eyes and steady hand of a vérité filmmaker.”
Kate Durbin
“Zambreno’s Ruth is literature’s lost girl. . . A harrowing, brilliant book.”
Lidia Yuknavitch
“Not since Faulkner first arrested my heart and stole my breath in The Sound and the Fury have I been as ravaged by the language of a novel as in Kate Zambreno’s Green Girl.”
Kirkus Reviews
A spoiled, self-loathing American girl navigates the wilderness years during a self-imposed exile in London.This second novel by Zambreno (O Fallen Angel, 2010, etc.) is an ambitious synthesis of millennial identity crisis, lyrical experimentation and emotional self-destruction that attempts to reinvent (or re-create?) the classical image of the flâneur by following the most awful protagonist in post-Girls literature through crowded, dirty London. Ruth, the heroine of this dark portrait, really is appalling to be around; in an interview with Zambreno at the end of the book, Bookslut’s Jessa Crispin observes, “[y]ou want both to slap her and to feed her like a baby bird,” which is pretty accurate. She works at an expensive department store she calls only "Horrids," plying wealthy shoppers with a rancid perfume called “Desire,” as in, “[h]ave you ever experienced Desire?” Much of the book makes it feel as if Ruth is the star of her own movie, while simultaneously pulling off the trick of staying squarely within her damaged skull. “What does she want to be?” Zambreno asks. “A green girl doesn’t like to consider this question. She already is. She is waiting around to be discovered just for being herself.” We slowly learn that Ruth has fled to this city she hates in the wake of a bad relationship, but we never really get to the roots of her emotional train wreck. We know she loathes others—her uptight supervisor, her gossipy co-workers, even the affable roommate who plies her with Ecstasy and three-ways. She’s a sexual catastrophe, casually dispensing favors to strangers in back rooms and breaking up with good guys because they won’t abuse her the way she needs. Zambreno has the writing chops for this unconventional journey, and the book takes some intriguing stylistic detours, but Ruth remains a bitter little pill to swallow.The flip side of the burgeoning drug-and-alcohol–fueled bad-boy lit movement: very busted girls.

Product Details

HarperCollins Publishers
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5.31(w) x 8.00(h) x 0.68(d)

Meet the Author

Kate Zambreno is also the author of the novel Green Girl (reissued by Harper Perennial) and a work of experimental criticism, Heroines (published by Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents). She is at work on a series of books about time, memory, and the persistence of art, including Book of Mutter (forthcoming from Semiotext(e)'s Native Agents in March 2017) and Drifts (forthcoming from Harper Perennial in late 2017). She teaches in the writing programs at Sarah Lawrence College and Columbia University.

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Green Girl 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 6 reviews.
Scott_Kennedy More than 1 year ago
A devasting prose-poem on the lack of identity that can infect one's early 20s. I loved it. Worth reading for the narrative voice alone. Also, I should mention that I had no intention of actually reading this book when I did. But glancing at the first few pages sucked me right in and then I couldn't stop. This is not a book to read for plot; it has little. But it captures and evokes an experience perfectly. As a reader in my 40s, this is a book to savor, remembering what it was like to be so unformed, and to make me damned glad I'm not 20 anymore. I could go on about other terrific qualitities of the book and the way it reflects our current society, etc., but really, you'd be better off reading it yourself (it's short) and forming your own opinion. Highly recommended. If I had to make a trite movie pitch for the book, I'd say think of it as Bridget Jones's Diary for pessimists or Catcher in the Rye for the Jersey Shore generation, a story wherein our heroine is inarticulate and essentially vapid, but entrancing, troubling and moving nonetheless.
Matilda-was-taken More than 1 year ago
Beautifully written. Unapologetic female characters. The sinking lost years. The woman on display. The woman inside. Proof you don't need to love a character or her choices to enjoy a good book. If you seek something different. New.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Of the blurb constant comparing to unread authors when the review is so confused what can we expect? Waste more time on a smple have never read the author and disliked the bell jar twenty years ago
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
When it revuews as a mish mosh and that is correct spelling not mash sample or borrow saves time and archive