Drifts
A restlessly brilliant novel of creative crisis and transformationBeguiling and compulsively readable, Drifts is an intimate portrait of reading, writing, and creative obsession. At work on a novel that is overdue to her publisher, spending long days alone with her restless terrier, corresponding ardently with fellow writers, the novel's narrator grows obsessed with the challenge of writing the present tense, of capturing time itself. Entranced by the work of Rilke, Dürer, Chantal Akerman, and others, she photographs the residents and strays of her neighborhood, haunts bookstores and galleries, and records her thoughts in a yellow notebook that soon subsumes her work on the novel. As winter closes in, a series of disturbances—the appearances and disappearances of enigmatic figures, the burglary of her apartment—leaves her distracted and uncertain . . . until an intense and tender disruption changes everything.A story of artistic ambition, personal crisis, and the possibilities and failures of literature, Drifts is a dramatic step forward for one of our most daring writers.

Drifts Details

TitleDrifts
Author
LanguageEnglish
ReleaseMay 19th, 2020
PublisherRiverhead Books
ISBN-139780593087213
Rating
GenreFiction, Literary Fiction, Language, Writing, Literature, Contemporary, Adult Fiction

Drifts Review

  • Doug
    January 1, 1970
    2.5, rounded down. Well, first let's address the elephant in the room: this is by no stretch of even the most liberal definition of the term a novel - and call me cynical, but the author and publishing company attempting to foist it off as such belies their knowledge that if they marketed it as what it IS, few would want to read it. I was expecting something along the line of Rachel Cusk's meta-fictional Outline trilogy, since this seemed to similarly deal with the foibles of an author/writing t 2.5, rounded down. Well, first let's address the elephant in the room: this is by no stretch of even the most liberal definition of the term a novel - and call me cynical, but the author and publishing company attempting to foist it off as such belies their knowledge that if they marketed it as what it IS, few would want to read it. I was expecting something along the line of Rachel Cusk's meta-fictional Outline trilogy, since this seemed to similarly deal with the foibles of an author/writing teacher's inabilities to do either. But here there isn't even any pretense that the narrator isn't the author, that the partner John isn't HER partner, that their (pretentiously named) dog Genet isn't their dog Genet, that her writer friend Sofia isn't the woman the book is dedicated to, etc., as the acknowledgements page makes clear. The first section (60% of the whole) congenially follows along as she muses over various authors and artists (the intelligensia's usual suspects: Rilke, Rodin, Kafka, Dürer, Walser, Chantal Akerman, Chris Marker, etc), while trying to finish a book entitled 'Drifts', and is a lot of collage a la Maggie Nelson (who indeed also gets namechecked), along with occasional photos and illustrations a la Sebald (ditto). This is readable and semi-interesting, quickly moving as there is a LOT of white space - but it also made me restless, since there was never much point to anything, and a lot of it is so much solipsistic navel-gazing.However, what is obliquely referred to as 'an intense and tender disruption' in the synopsis turns out to be (SPOILER ALERT) Zambreno's own first pregnancy - and the final 40% is basically a pregnancy journal, with the author/narrator going on and on ad nauseum about such. Readers of the female gender might find this of more interest than I did, but it is like reading a novelization of What to Expect When You're Expecting. Zambreno can write, no doubt about that, but this 'bait and switch' infuriated me and killed any kindly feelings I had towards the book.PS: As if it wasn't bad enough she named her poor dog Genet, we learn in the acknowledgements that the resulting daughter of said pregnancy was saddled with the name LEO - no doubt after Tolstoy!
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  • Sam Glatt
    January 1, 1970
    Right now, we are surrounded by so much death. It felt good to read something that made me want to live forever.
  • Lauren
    January 1, 1970
    Time is a slippery thing. Zambreno reckons with the problematic relationship writers have with time. Periods of time necessary for research, writing, reading, and reflection don’t always sync up with the constraints of deadlines, teaching, care for relatives and pets, unexpected events, and just life as we know it. Meditating on long dead writers and artists, corresponding with friends and fellow writers, connecting with her dog Genet, Zambreno puzzles out the challenge of being a writer today. Time is a slippery thing. Zambreno reckons with the problematic relationship writers have with time. Periods of time necessary for research, writing, reading, and reflection don’t always sync up with the constraints of deadlines, teaching, care for relatives and pets, unexpected events, and just life as we know it. Meditating on long dead writers and artists, corresponding with friends and fellow writers, connecting with her dog Genet, Zambreno puzzles out the challenge of being a writer today. Not in an ideal light, but through the honest filter of time as we live it. I fell into the rhythm of this book and became a confidante to its weight and movement. Drifts is such an apt title and like the waves on the cover, I buffered myself along her mind and soul’s wonderings. Also, added photo of reading this book when I could steal time—IE: an accidental nap of Zadie’s. The weight of holding a child and reading this book is another wrinkle to the plot. I’ll read anything Zambreno will write with gratitude and solidarity.
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  • Rebecca H.
    January 1, 1970
    I love this book so much. Brilliant.
  • Laurel
    January 1, 1970
    zambreno! you did it again! i always want to hate you. for being so close to me and all of "frances farmer's sisters." in the middle of all yr books, we grrrls say "well! i could do that! those are my thoughts! stop it! quit!" we disregard the idea that (1) it has been taken from us, but we never actually wrote it, really and for real there's (2) (and this really means something), zambreno took our ticking "mystical rhythmic poet x dead blonde starlet" hearts and got it legitimized. threw it out zambreno! you did it again! i always want to hate you. for being so close to me and all of "frances farmer's sisters." in the middle of all yr books, we grrrls say "well! i could do that! those are my thoughts! stop it! quit!" we disregard the idea that (1) it has been taken from us, but we never actually wrote it, really and for real there's (2) (and this really means something), zambreno took our ticking "mystical rhythmic poet x dead blonde starlet" hearts and got it legitimized. threw it out there. now it's approved by like, entertainment weekly and some shit! which our dad's* read! so yeah, zambreno, thanks for carrying our torch. even though we resent it. we love you. you did it again. xolb
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  • Laura Mills
    January 1, 1970
    This book book follows a woman at work on a novel that never ends, and her mediations on what it means to be an artist, to reconcile life and creativity, to be both observer and participant in every day life. I read this book in almost one sitting, propelled by the narrator's looping thoughts and exacting observations about the strangers she sees on her neighborhood walks. This is definitely a book for writers, and I recognized myself in a lot of her meditations on writing and the writing proces This book book follows a woman at work on a novel that never ends, and her mediations on what it means to be an artist, to reconcile life and creativity, to be both observer and participant in every day life. I read this book in almost one sitting, propelled by the narrator's looping thoughts and exacting observations about the strangers she sees on her neighborhood walks. This is definitely a book for writers, and I recognized myself in a lot of her meditations on writing and the writing process. She quotes a lot from famous/not-so-famous artists and writers, and while I enjoyed some of these sections, I did find them a bit repetitive, especially when she was referencing someone I'd never heard of, or art I can't visualize. Overall though, I thought this was a fascinating look at the way observation molds itself into art, and I'm grateful for the trance-like experience I had while reading this book. It made me want to write, to pay attention, to the think about how I fill the container of my days. And that's what the best books-about-time/art/creativity do, in my opinion.
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  • Jakub Szestowicki
    January 1, 1970
    Pies bla bla bla Rilke bla bla bla Ciąża bla bla bla „jak napiszę tę książkę” bla bla bla
  • Jacob Wren
    January 1, 1970
    A few short passages from Drifts:Everyone says it’s so healthy to have friends, she writes to me, but I find it sometimes more isolating. The self-harm of social media – we both understand it and yet feel compelled by it, these pictures and narratives of success and happiness, however fictional.Cornell copying down into his journal a line from a Rilke biography: “In the letters written between 1910 and 1914 we find Rilke (continually) expressing a longing for human companionship and affection, a A few short passages from Drifts:Everyone says it’s so healthy to have friends, she writes to me, but I find it sometimes more isolating. The self-harm of social media – we both understand it and yet feel compelled by it, these pictures and narratives of success and happiness, however fictional.Cornell copying down into his journal a line from a Rilke biography: “In the letters written between 1910 and 1914 we find Rilke (continually) expressing a longing for human companionship and affection, and then, often immediately afterwards asking whether he could really respond to such companionship if it were offered to him, and wondering whether, after all, his real task might lie elsewhere.” At the end of September, a prominent writer of so-called autofiction, with a half-million-dollar advance on his last book, wins the so-called genius grant. All day, friends contact me to complain. This writer’s name had become synonymous for the type of first-person narrative we also wrote, and yet no one found our struggles worthy of reward. Why do these prizes and awards only seem to breed more prizes and awards? Yes, something about breeding, something I didn’t quite grasp. Maybe our work was too much about acknowledging failure, about doubt. We saw something beautiful and comradely in our doubt. Maybe prize committees prize confidence, the ooze of it.How much I understand that sentiment – although every book I’ve published embarrasses me.I used to dismiss so many artists who wanted fame – but then the ones who want fame are the ones who are remembered, more often than not. Like Robert Mapplethorpe, who played the game, unlike Peter Hujar, who did not. I wonder sometimes about my identification with writers and artists who were failures. Anna wrote back that yes, in a person’s lifetime, the successful ones are the ones who want to be, who are in the right place in the right time with the right look and the right agent and the right personality, but after we’re all dead, she thought, it’s anyone’s game who’s remembered. Which of course is how she would think about it, as a competition, still, ever after death.
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  • Vincent Scarpa
    January 1, 1970
    “When I first moved here, I taught a graduate writing seminar on the fragment at one of the liberal arts colleges. In each of the three fragmentary novels we read, a different narrator, experiencing a declining mental state, exacerbated by loneliness, worried over her lost cat. In each of the three, it’s unclear to the reader whether the cat actually exists. I said to my students then, over the uncanniness of this repetitive narrative thread across several books: Perhaps this is true loneliness. “When I first moved here, I taught a graduate writing seminar on the fragment at one of the liberal arts colleges. In each of the three fragmentary novels we read, a different narrator, experiencing a declining mental state, exacerbated by loneliness, worried over her lost cat. In each of the three, it’s unclear to the reader whether the cat actually exists. I said to my students then, over the uncanniness of this repetitive narrative thread across several books: Perhaps this is true loneliness. You worry over a lost cat you don’t even know exists. Everyone wrote in their notebooks when I said this, as if I had said something profound.”
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  • Trace Nichols
    January 1, 1970
    I can see why work this is titled "Drifts"... because that is exactly what it does, and what it offers by way of experience. This book reads like a work of non-fiction following various bents of research in art history and philosophy. It takes a multitude of factoids and wraps them in banal details of daily existence: observations, activities, and conversations. For instance, how can you use the experience of buying lipstick to segue into a diatribe on Susan Sontag? For folks who like name dropp I can see why work this is titled "Drifts"... because that is exactly what it does, and what it offers by way of experience. This book reads like a work of non-fiction following various bents of research in art history and philosophy. It takes a multitude of factoids and wraps them in banal details of daily existence: observations, activities, and conversations. For instance, how can you use the experience of buying lipstick to segue into a diatribe on Susan Sontag? For folks who like name dropping and the know-it-alls who use internet searches to answer every question posed during casual conversations... this book is for you! A bit to 'trying' for my likes.
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  • Kathleen Gray
    January 1, 1970
    This is a novel about how not to write a book. Yep. The narrator is supposed to be writing- her book is overdue - but she's doing everything but. Some might be put off by the references to other writers (it can be tough if you don't know who she's musing about) but take this as an opportunity to learn something new. I found myself side tracked (much like the narrator) by google. Things go round and round in her head until, no spoilers. Writers will feel sympathy, readers might now understand why This is a novel about how not to write a book. Yep. The narrator is supposed to be writing- her book is overdue - but she's doing everything but. Some might be put off by the references to other writers (it can be tough if you don't know who she's musing about) but take this as an opportunity to learn something new. I found myself side tracked (much like the narrator) by google. Things go round and round in her head until, no spoilers. Writers will feel sympathy, readers might now understand why there's such a wait between books from favorite authors. Thanks to Edelweiss for the ARC. It's a fairly slim volume that will appeal to fans of literary fiction.
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  • Pooch
    January 1, 1970
    "Let everything happen to you / Beauty and terror / Just keep going / No feeling is final." --RilkeBirthing...a baby, a book. Filling a void. Living on.Living and thinking through a filter of pregnancy.The self, the center.
  • Flavia
    January 1, 1970
    This book is a great example of writing that had absolutely no reason to be published. I believe the process of writing Drifts was important and valuable to the author; I don't believe that as a book it holds pretty much any value to a reader (except maybe to someone who knows her well enough to put her writing in a meaningful personal context). Additionally, none of the valuable insights in this book are Zambreno's own; of course, this isn't inherently a bad thing, a book doesn't need to be a ' This book is a great example of writing that had absolutely no reason to be published. I believe the process of writing Drifts was important and valuable to the author; I don't believe that as a book it holds pretty much any value to a reader (except maybe to someone who knows her well enough to put her writing in a meaningful personal context). Additionally, none of the valuable insights in this book are Zambreno's own; of course, this isn't inherently a bad thing, a book doesn't need to be a 'primary source', so to speak, to be important; but since she also doesn't offer any real analysis of these other ideas or do much of anything with them at all, it just feels like a bit of a waste of time to read. You may as well just go straight to the original works she references. The final nail in the coffin was another thing that isn't inherently bad, but becomes a problem when a book has no other redeeming features: her prose is INCREDIBLY bland. I'm assuming this was intentional since the inability to write is, obviously, a central concept to this book. But the effect is that there's nothing to sink your teeth into when you're reading this. There's nothing compelling. There's nothing stylistically interesting — there's no real style at all.Once again, I think writing this was probably a really valuable exercise for Zambreno — that just doesn't mean it's a good fit for publication. I don't want my review to come across as overly negative — I really don't feel very strongly about this book either way. (What is there to feel strongly about??) But the fact is it's a fluff piece that doesn't offer anything much to think about and doesn't do ... whatever it does in any kind of artistic way.(I did love Genet, he's adorable!!! Although why someone would masturbate WITH their dog in the room and why they would feel the need to share this with other people is beyond me, I do wish I hadn't had to read that one sentence ...)
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  • Glen Helfand
    January 1, 1970
    This is a novel about process, and as the title suggests, drifting. But not without aim. Zambreno taps a literary, artistic life, one with a book deadline, adjunct teaching, and conversations with friends in similar situations, present and past (looking at Rainer Maria Rilke's relationships and writing process. While a novel, she describes the elusive course of writing a book with this one's title, and all the squirming avoidance, the drift, that comes with it. She adores her dog, Genet, with wh This is a novel about process, and as the title suggests, drifting. But not without aim. Zambreno taps a literary, artistic life, one with a book deadline, adjunct teaching, and conversations with friends in similar situations, present and past (looking at Rainer Maria Rilke's relationships and writing process. While a novel, she describes the elusive course of writing a book with this one's title, and all the squirming avoidance, the drift, that comes with it. She adores her dog, Genet, with who she spends a sultry summer. The second half of the book describes pregnancy, something I've noticed has struck many as being an easy way out, a birthing of a baby, and a book. But I found this section to move from head to body, to experience shifts in perspective, and moments where physicality completely took over. Drifts then becomes full of literary and physical intimacy, it feels like floating through a patch of someone else's life, and spending some real, ruminative time there.
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  • Liz
    January 1, 1970
    “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 pu “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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  • James Buchanan
    January 1, 1970
    Hmmm... Don't know about this one.I read it through and there is a lot to like and feel ambiguous about.She is fascinated by Rilke, but I don't feel I learned anything about Rilke other than the narrator juxtaposes her life to his. I now know the narrator complains, a lot. And that the narrator lives and a massive world of privilege that I would love to exist in for even five minutes, and she complains about it.And she hates--absolutely hates--being pregnant, which I'm not sure I'd be happy bein Hmmm... Don't know about this one.I read it through and there is a lot to like and feel ambiguous about.She is fascinated by Rilke, but I don't feel I learned anything about Rilke other than the narrator juxtaposes her life to his. I now know the narrator complains, a lot. And that the narrator lives and a massive world of privilege that I would love to exist in for even five minutes, and she complains about it.And she hates--absolutely hates--being pregnant, which I'm not sure I'd be happy being pregnant, but I know plenty of women who love/loved being pregnant.So yeah, I wouldn't recommend it, but I also wouldn't not recommend it. I think it's most definitely written for a certain type of woman.
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  • Ashley Raynor
    January 1, 1970
    I’ll start by saying there are a few truly beautiful sentences and thoughts in this book... but I overall really hated it. I often found it very whiny and pretentious, and mostly summary of other writers’ journals rather than much original thought. The summary blurb online definitely makes it sound more interesting than it is.
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  • Christina D'Antoni
    January 1, 1970
    I loved this book so so much. I never caught myself checking how many pages were left; I wanted to spend as much time as possible with this book. Kate Zambreno’s fierceness is breathtaking! I can’t wait to read all her works. I also loved how much time and space was given to addressing pregnancy and motherhood as a writer.
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  • Abby
    January 1, 1970
    This is the closest I’ve come to not finishing a book in a long time. It’s my fault for not researching. I had really liked Green Girl so I expected something similar, but this is not a novel at all (despite what it says on the cover!). It’s a series of extremely intellectual and arty diary entries. Totally cool if that’s your thing, but it was not for me.
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  • Chris Rice
    January 1, 1970
    I fell into the current of this narrative and stayed bobbing and floating from beginning to end mesmerized by the Mix of bodily Experience and cultural touchstones. Paula Modershon Becker whose letters I have read a friend to the poet Rilke. A painter who died 18 days after giving birth to her daughter. The perils of. Reaction and birth hung over the text from beginning to end. I loved it.
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  • Heather Anne
    January 1, 1970
    this book feels like the space between the dots of an ellipsis
  • Jaime
    January 1, 1970
    I would say 3.5 but I’m rounding down, since it took me until the second half of this to really get into it.
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