I, for one, will not be rushing out to any autograph parties for Judith Green's first novel, "Winners." Indeed, I hope to be spared her acquaintance altogether, so utterly terrified am I that she might actually talk the way she writes -- or rather, that she might actually be the way she talks. For Green does not so much write "Winners" as she talks it.
And oh my, how this woman does talk. Her non-stop, overwrought, often foul-mouth monologues stream down upon us like ever-encroaching lava from an overactive volcano. Judith Green is the Mount St. Helen's of the bookstalls.
A good read nonetheless? Only now and then, and only worth it if you badly need to scream along with Green.
In any case, forget about reading and instead get ready to eavesdrop on the central character, Amanda Weldon. Amanda yaps, babbles, inveighs, excoriates, spits and snorts to herself, building to paroxysms of semi-illiterate, slang-slashed rage. What it's all about is her monumental dissatisfaction with her lot in life as a gorgeous, rich, educated, married-for-security -- and thus, self-made -- cipher. Green's Amanda is an expensively beige, impressively housed exurban matron with adorable twin daughters, married to a square but ambitious chap who got rich in real estate and now wants to be governor of New York.
True, Amanda's rather exaggerated sexual needs are not fully met by her handsome, hustling, preoccupied spouse. But is the lack of instant and total gratification in the conjugal bed justification for so preposterously fortunate a woman being so relentlessly, blasphemously bitter? (On page one of "Winners," Amanda has already suggested that the superficiality of her life as a political wife in the cashmere-and-madras set has driven her into a heavy lesbian liaison.
"Winners" is not a "Washington book," not a cunning intrigue about the uses of power by fiendishly fascinating characters. It is an emotional phony, a tease, a personal polemic in political drag. It is also, more often than not, a crashing bore. Amanda's husband's political speeches fill large portions of the last third of the book as it hurries to a hollow end with the dicey deus ex machina of Amanda saved from the slavery of sex by the victuals of victory.
But I must also say this: Green may be heard from yet. She may even be read. Occasionally, "Winners" contains some witty observations and even some profound truths, though they are so elegantly isolated by their superior tone, style and content from the rest of the jumble that they scarcely belong.
Green raises to comic bas-relief the unintentionally ridiculous poses, speech patters and rituals of dress of the fading, 40ish Ivy Leaguers who inhabit Amanda's world. Her mother, a coyly tippling, martyred, failed social climber who is torn between acid resentment and glowing pride in her daughter, is a classic, whom Green portrays deftly. And when Amanda's vibrant young daughters burst through the cloud bank the novel's stream of consciousness, one knows that Green knows truth. And can not only speak it, but write it.