Zambreno and Guibert are perhaps an odd couple. Where the latter wrote unabashedly of cruising and gay sex in a milieu that included Michel Foucault and Roland Barthes, Zambreno writes here of motherhood, adjunct teaching, and life in Brooklyn. She’s aware of the dissonanc...Yet, one of the pleasures of her book is the affinities she traces between herself and Guibert ... The book is a riposte, however incidental, to current critical dogma in which outsiders are presumed to lack the authority to write across difference...While she doesn’t exhibit Guibert’s ravening lust, she has some of his acidity, his charisma, his meditativeness, his improvisational grace. She has, too, his comfort with slipperiness, both in terms of subjectivity and of form ... Despite its elliptical style, Zambreno’s book cultivates patience, a digressive but ruminative mode that goes beyond close reading of Guibert toward an actual embodiment of his voice ... Zambreno conceives literature as inseparable from identity but not constrained by it. Her approach demonstrates one version of what reading is for, what literature is for—not to make us more empathetic, much less improve us, but to offer an intellectual, emotional, or creative experience we would not otherwise have. Literature makes life more bearable. And for those who are ill or dying, literature has the additional capacity to make them 'more fully human,' as Zambreno suggests. To document our own deaths is to prove that, for a while anyway, we survived.
... clever ... As her investigation turns to the financial and material needs motivating her to write in the first place, it morphs into a feverish quarantine journal wherein she questions the meaning of language during crisis, especially the use of first-person writing. The author’s fans will savor this cascading meditation on what makes writing possible and necessary.
... contemplative, rhetorically austere ... Though Zambreno tries to stay on point, Guibert’s book mainly serves as a launchpad for more personal excursions she can’t set aside ... Drifts was digressive but possessed a lyricism, sense of humor, and passion that justified its fragmentary nature. By contrast, this book is meandering and chilly. Zambreno clings to Guibert’s book as a signifier of troubled friendships, first-person writing, and physical illness, but there’s little sense of resolution or coherence. That’s partly the point, of course. The author is frustrated by the way memoir is 'supposed to be incredibly earnest and moral.' She wants to push back against that tradition, but the result is more an exercise in sangfroid than transgression ... A somber meta-memoir, rich in ideas but set at an emotional low boil.