cover image To Write as If Already Dead

To Write as If Already Dead

Kate Zambreno. Columbia Univ, $18 trade paper (192p) ISBN 978-0-231-18845-6

In this clever hybrid work, Zambreno (Drifts) interrogates her fascination with French writer and photographer Hervé Guibert, whose novel To the Friend Who Did Not Save My Life (1990) controversially outed friend Michel Foucault of having died of AIDS. In the first of two parts, Zambreno sets out to explore “the problem of a friendship,” first between herself and a famous author she met under a pseudonym online, then between Foucault and Guibert, before the novel—which traces Guibert’s own suffering with AIDS and featured a character named Muzil, based on Foucault—was written. “At what point,” she wonders, “does the writing become an act of betrayal?” Part two takes a diaristic turn, covering Zambreno’s pregnancy-related ailments and the daily demands on her as a working mother, as the act of writing becomes more difficult: “I need to push it out as if through my body... even if the thinking is fickle, even if it changes over time.” 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. Agent: Harriet Moore, David Higham Assoc. (June)