Why you want to hate ‘The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky,’ but can’t

Jana Casale’s debut novel “The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky” feels like reading the story behind a carefully curated Instagram feed. Between the entries about sitting in coffee shops, falling in love, moving to San Francisco, taking scenic road trips with her boyfriend, working on her novel and pretending to read Noam Chomsky to impress a boy she likes, Casale’s heroine Leda is insecure — obsessed with the concept of being “linear.”

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“The Girl Who Never Read Noam Chomsky” 
By Jana Casale. 
368 pp. Knopf. $27.97.
April 17, 2018.

Leda was the type of girl who thought “salad for lunch was a distant notion she associated with mortgages and weddings,” orders clothing made out of tree pulp or vegan silk, “grown accustomed to drinking intolerable drinks at parties by holding her breath and taking small sips,” and builds her days around “tea and ice cream.”

She was the type of girl who apologizes all the time and forces herself to do stuff she hates because that’s what everybody else does and thinks its also what’s expected from her. The type of girl who shaves the pubic hair from her vagina even though it hurts and makes her bleed and her boyfriend tells her to stop shaving down there.

She’s the type of girl that you hate — who has her whole life put together and still feels insecure. She’s engaged by 25 and married by 26. She doesn’t have to go through the charade of mindlessly swiping on Tinder or OkCupid. She became a mother before she turned 30. And writes her first novel and gets it published*. (* I’m referring to Jana Casale rather than Casale’s heroine Leda in this instance.)

But the main reason you hate Leda: because she reminds you of yourself and you hate yourself and your indecision and insecurity. You want Leda (and yourself) to be brave and fearless and above pettiness, but even as you’re reading about how Casale describes the cattiness of women who constantly try to one-up each other, you’re just as guilty of this and “never reading Noam Chomsky,” comparing yourself to a fictional character and her invisible Instagram feed.

 

 

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