Cover Image: Drifts

Drifts

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Member Reviews

I truly loved this book. Kate Zambreno is such an interesting writer, and each of her books manages to explore new territory without straying from her central themes and philosophy. It's quite a feat! This one is sort of a novel in fragments, that seems to be autofiction. I adored every minute. I fully understood her questioning of aspects of her life, striving for art, or to at least understand art.
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I finished this book and immediately googled the author's age. I can always tell when I'm reading a book written by someone roughly my age. There's something really specific in the existential confusion of being born neither fully into the gen x or millennial generations. Also pulled Rilke off the shelf. Loved this one.
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Early on in Drifts, Kate Zambreno’s new work of autofiction, the narrator writes to a friend that she wants the book to be “my fantasy of a memoir about nothing.” And it is, in the way that Seinfeld was a show about nothing and everything at the same time. Drifts makes discursive detours into loneliness, female friendship, writer’s block, and professional jealousy; the narrator looks to what she calls “the canon of the bachelor hermits” (Rilke, Kafka, Wittgenstein) for inspiration as she navigates pregnancy and career uncertainty. It’s the perfect reading for this isolated, indeterminate time—like reading a series of rambling postcards from your most erudite friend.
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“How to capture that? The problem with dailiness—how to write the day when it escapes us. It was the problem at the center of the work I was trying to write, although I was unsure whether I was really trying to write it.” / “The problem, we decide, is that we can’t focus, we can’t go deep, we are always skimming the surface.”

Here Kate Zambreno has compiled fragments of ideas and quotidian observations in an attempt to record the strange flow and drift of time... the slow, laborious process of putting thoughts on paper and birthing not only a literary work but a human as well. Much of this book centers around the author’s investigation into the life and creative process of René Maria Rilke, specifically his core principle that in order to make art you need to withdraw deep into yourself, live within your work and stay there. While I did find some of Zambreno’s musings to be interesting or offbeat, overall I felt like her experience came across as too unfocused. Her examination of Rilke was ripe with insights (and in my opinion was the saving grace of the book), but I don’t feel like those gems of artistic wisdom translated into her own execution of this writing experiment. I get that this is the whole premise of the book— the meandering, oftentimes pointless thoughts arranged in a somewhat nebulous chronology)— but for how wowed I was by Zambreno’s execution of this literary style in Green Girl, Drifts didn’t steal my heart in the same way... which made for a somewhat disappointing read. I hate to say that I was bored by most of this book... but that’s how I felt. For me, Zambreno scratched the surface on too many concepts here and didn’t allow for the depth and thoroughness to render any of those individual ideas fully realized. I myself am not a writer, merely a very avid hobbyist reader, so perhaps this wasn’t geared towards me as an audience. 

(Thank you to NetGalley for the promotional e-reader copy!)
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I’m judging a 2020 fiction contest. It’d be generous to call what I’m doing upon my first cursory glance—reading. I also don’t take this task lightly. As a fellow writer and lover of words and books I took this position—in hopes of being a good literary citizen. My heart aches for all the writers who have a debut at this time. What I can share now is the thing that held my attention and got this book from the perspective pile into the read further pile. 
I’ll say this—I’m here for the lyricism and the fragmented form. Reminiscent of Jenny Offill and Sarah Manguso, but this wrestling with artistic isolation I feel is a story of this time we’re in right now. Engaging autofiction.
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Oftentimes when I am reading a pre-publication book for review, I will have a notebook by my side in case I want to jot down a sentence or a thought that I may want to later use. Suffice it to say, after reading “Drifts” by Kate Zambreno, I need a whole new notebook, maybe two

The references that Zambreno uses are ample and remarkable. They are primarily literary, but also from film, photography, music, painting, sculpture, dance, and architecture. In many cases they are references that I recognize and want to re-explore. In others, I just want to drop what I am doing and go down whatever rabbit hole Ms. Zambreno suggests, trusting that it will give me an experience I will never forget. (Rainer Marie Rilke - I promise that I will get back to you ASAP).

“Drifts” totally absorbed me. I vacillated between, “Damn, I should have stuck with writing” to “Brilliant move that I didn’t”. I could follow along on each hill and valley, the good days and the bad, the euphoria and the depression. A wonderful treat for serious readers and a must read for aspiring (and despairing) writers.

Thanks to Random House and NetGalley for the eARC.
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