Everything Is Cinema
by Kate Zambreno
$16.00 List Price
Kate Zambreno resists easy classification. Her fiction squirms under the critic’s microscope like an unruly subatomic particle, appearing first here and there and then in both places at the same time. She crams so much information into Green Girl, her second work of fiction, that I’m tempted to resort to making a list of its various sources and referents, but that would spoil the fun. 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.
OK, so maybe I did resort to making a list, but it really just touches on a few of the stones in Zambreno’s pathway. Green Girl is ambitious in a way few works of fiction are, and it’s certainly more ambitious than the kind of fiction Zambreno is taking on: the single-girl-seeking-not-sure-what-exactly novel that has been pigeonholed as “chick lit” at least since Helen Fielding’s Bridget Jones’s Diary, which Green Girl draws from (its cosmopolitan London setting) and pitches against (its implied self-definition through romance).
Ruth, the book’s titular character is a shopgirl at a large London department store she calls Horrids, which even those unfamiliar with London will recognize as the iconic Brompton Road shop Harrods. She peddles, without much success, a perfume called Desire, a motif Zambreno uses to underscore Ruth’s ambivalent relation to the male gaze: She both wants to be