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Green Girl Paperback – October 10, 2011

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Paperback, October 10, 2011
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Product Details

  • Paperback: 268 pages
  • Publisher: Emergency Press; 1St Edition edition (October 10, 2011)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0983022631
  • ISBN-13: 978-0983022633
  • Product Dimensions: 8.3 x 5.8 x 0.6 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12.8 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (16 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #1,458,174 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews


The book is by turns bildungsroman, sociological study, deconstruction, polemic, and live-streamed dialogue with Jean Rhys, Clarice Lispector, Simone de Beauvoir, Virginia Woolf, the Bible, Roland Barthes, and most of Western European modernism by way of Walter Benjamin's Arcades Project. --James Greer, Bookforum

"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 (Emergency Press). A modern-age Holly Golightly who bleeds Plath and Godard, Ruth drifts through the streets of London in an existential fog, besotted with pretty things and her best friend, at once empowered and emptied out by the desire of men. The skill with which Zambreno inhabits the emptiness of her all-too-recognizable, self-obsessed heroine, clinging to her persona as it turns to dust in her hands, is remarkable." - Elissa Schappell, Vanity Fair

Zambreno's cruelty is only the world's, the world that has provided for girls like Ruth endless dead-end heroines, beauties who, if they do anything at all, mostly undo. - Lightsey Darst, Bookslut

It cracks, it zings. It makes you call your girlfriend and read sections aloud over the phone. --Jessa Crispin, Kirkus Reviews

The best word to describe Kate Zambreno's Green Girl is searing.  - Roxane Gay

As an artist, Kate Zambreno is profoundly non-complacent, and this is the book for all of us ready to confront our own complacency.  This is a vital book, a necessary book, a book I will long treasure. - Tim Jones-Yelvington, The Lit Pub

Ruth the green girl is a character I recognize from life -- the ingénue shopgirl and pixie libertine wandering a vast loveless city, hounded by the devouring gaze of a society that looks and looks but never sees the person beneath the pretty feminine surface. This is the story of that yet-to-be-formed person, a scene-by-scene treatment of the role she's been scripted to play. Kate Zambreno writes with the clear eyes and steady hand of a vérité filmmaker, beckoning her Ruth toward a self-redemption that hangs just out of reach, like the existential epigraphs haunting the upper margins of every chapter. What emerges is a book of feminist pre-awakening, of an author and a character in search of one another and themselves. --Pamela Lu

Zambreno's Ruth is literature's lost girl, the ambivalent offspring of Lispector's Macabea, Rhys' Sasha Jensen, and Plath's Esther Greenwood. A pretty, dazed American ingénue wandering the wet streets of London in search of the best little black dress, the perfect pink rouge, to make her complete. And what exactly makes Ruth so incomplete? It's the void behind her painted face, the hollow center that draws us into our green girl, our "question mark, a mystery even unto herself." For what Zambreno does ingeniously, ruthlessly, is implicate Ruth's impenetrable vacancy as our own. A harrowing, brilliant book. --Kate Durbin

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. There is a poetics of desire shivering in the skin of every line. There is a momentous psychosexual arrival in her deformations of diction and syntax - as if language itself were intimate with the body of a girl. Read this book if you dare the wrath of signification: "She throws herself into the crowd . . . The ecstasy of commotion . . . and scream." --Lidia Yuknavitch

About the Author

Kate Zambreno is the author of the novels O Fallen Angel and Green Girl. Heroines, a critical memoir revolving around her obsession with the women of modernism will be published by Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents series this fall.

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Customer Reviews

3.8 out of 5 stars

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

10 of 11 people found the following review helpful By Andrea Quinlan on November 16, 2011
Format: Paperback
I think that Green Girl is one of the best novels of 2011. More than that, I feel like it's a novel I have been waiting to read my whole life. I can see the influences reviewers and Zambreno herself have mentioned - Lispector, Plath, the fact that Ruth is like Cleo in Cleo from 5 to 7. I love the novel for the way it engages with the history of art and literature as well as being a novel I can see apects of my own life in - even if I'm not and never have been an American working in London at a perfume counter. It's easy to identify with Ruth and her uncertainty and coming into being. I haven't read anything quite like it and I'm so grateful for it.

Green Girl is a novel that is impossible to put down, yet will stay with you once you have read it. You devour each chapter of Ruth's story which is punctuated with quotes, from Shakespeare to Rhys and Colette, like the intertitles of a new wave film. This is entirely appropriate as Ruth, who is a Godard like ingénue, is obsessed with the glamour of film and herself lives her life as a character observed by all - the women she works with, the men she has toxic relationships with, strangers on the streets, the maternal and voyeuristic narrator, us - the readers of the book. Yet, like Varda's Cleo, Ruth longs to escape from this glare to find something, her artistry.

Green Girl is a genius, brilliant work of art. A walk with a 21st century flâneuse. I can't recommend it enough.
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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful By Scott Kennedy on May 30, 2012
Format: Kindle Edition
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, one where our heroine is inarticulate and essentially vapid, but entrancing, troubling and moving nonetheless.
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7 of 7 people found the following review helpful By Greg Olear on January 30, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
Zambreno's prose reads like something out of Joyce -- lucid Joyce, as Nabokov put it, the "Ulysses"-era Joyce with his love of wordplay and attention to detail and epiphany -- but with a 21st century, post-feminist twist. The result is quite a literary achievement.

She begins her chapters with quotes from novels, movies, pop songs. Often when writers trot out aphorisms, it's to mask their own deficiencies. Not so here. I want to read his again with a red pen (okay, a green one) to mark the many sublime turns of phrase (of which "my icon of ruin" is but one) and essential truths that pop up on almost every page.

Unlike Ruth, her hapless heroine, Zambreno knows exactly what she's doing.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By S. Conley on September 16, 2014
Format: Paperback
What a beautiful book, more alive than most I've read lately. Nothing really happens, I guess. Ruth wakes up, gets ready, goes to work, hides from everyone, hangs out with flatmate Agnes, gets on the tube, minds the gap, parties, has sex, does it all again the next day. All the while dreading and analyzing her every move, lost completely inside herself.

The prose makes up for the aimless heroine and lacking plot. Sometimes you don't need a plot, especially when the writing is this beautiful. It's a nonstop, hallucinatory, opulent, mindbending ride through Ruth's psyche and emotions. Friends and coworkers and lovers are held at arm's length and only drawn in close when it serves shopgirl Ruth. She is hated, she is admired, she hates, she admires. She's that blank girl behind the cash register, she's that always distant neighbor, she's your girlfriend, she's your sister, she's you.

Zambreno could easily be called the Lena Dunham of literature, her characters are just as real and flawed, and unapologetic and misguided as Dunham's. This is a new era of storytelling, in which structure and formal characterization are shirked for an instead daring and unpredictable and wonderfully told tale of being a woman living a life that's not defined by men. That, to me, is true feminism. It has nothing to do with men having more than women, it has nothing to do with equality. Being equal does not mean we're supposed to be the same. True feminism is accepting yourself and your flawed world, despite of what men are doing or defining.

I absolutely loved this book.
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3 of 3 people found the following review helpful By D on April 17, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
The story is about a young 20-something American woman, Ruth, who moves to London following a heartbreak, of which the reader is only vaguely informed. In fact, the reader is not really fully aware of most of the "action" in this book; rather, the bulk of this book is snippets of feelings and thoughts. Ruth is going through a dark time, and the tone of the novel reflects her mood perfectly. She is clearly sad and lost, and possible explanations are only gradually exposed. But again, the sad events of her past are only incidentally featured in the story. Her depression holds the story very much in Ruth's present-day life and lingers in every action she takes and every thought she has. She bounces around in a near-aimless existence trying to make sense of her life, and as the reader tries to do the same, the book is really able to make its mark. While reading, this book made me sad. It made me feel sorry for Ruth and sympathize with her but at the same time made me want to pull her up and yell at her to get her life together. I think it's difficult to provoke strong feelings in a reader and this novel does it perfectly. It is a quick read and definitely worth your time.
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More About the Author

Kate Zambreno is the author of two novels, Green Girl (Harper Perennial) and O Fallen Angel (Chiasmus Press), and one book of innovative nonfiction, Heroines (Semiotext(e)'s Active Agents). She teaches in the writing programs at Columbia University and Sarah Lawrence College, and is at work on a novel, Switzerland, to be published by Harper in 2016.

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