This was originally drafted sometime spring 2017, but I wasn’t really using this blog at that point so it sat in my drafts.
Awhile back, I requested that my local library purchase a copy of “Green Girl” and luckily they agreed. Although it took me awhile to get around to (my “to read” list is massive), I’m very glad I read it. I already knew I was a fan of Zambreno’s writing, but it was an exceptionally engaging read for me. I read through it in a couple of quick bursts, wholly annoyed when someone would interrupt me.
After reading through the blurbs on the cover and several reviews to get a feel for the book — I went in expecting to not like Ruth. However, I instantly fell in step with the flaneur-narrator. I loved Ruth. Ruth is imperfect. Ruth is basic. Ruth doesn’t know how to deal with being a person, nonetheless a girl. Other reviewers found her unlikable, intolerable, awful. I wanted to save her even from that.
While I didn’t find much of my awkward self in Ruth, I could relate to her. Ruth’s story is a moving insight into cruelty, into the ways in which young women can be terrible without any specific malicious intent. She is relatable because she is despondent over the nothingness of her life. She whips herself up into a state of existential dread and acts like a clueless jerk because she is so damn terrified.
I realized that I felt some of the same tragic empathy that I felt reading Les Liaisons Dangereuses. Valmont and Merteuil acted horrible because they were privileged and shitty and bored, but also because they were miserable. However, their intentions in dealing with others was malicious versus the detached inability to see consequences as demonstrated by Ruth. Strangely enough, the character assessments left by reviewers of the tragic but malicious Valmont and Merteuil were far more generous than the ones I read of rudderless Ruth.
I guess I get it. Ruth is the kind of girl I thought I envied: pretty, well-off (her dad gifting enough for her to quit her job for several months) and at least surface-confident. I was the type of girl that would have been her victim. But I’m reading from a different perspective now. Older and maybe kinder and too damn aware of how temporary I am and how that can be extra painful as a young adult feeling no particular draw toward any particular thing.