Book Review : Chris Campanioni - Drift (2018)
Have you ever stopped to analyze the flow of thoughts inside your head while commuting or running errands? The mind is an unruly place in which we live other, different lives than the one we're actually living. The one we should care about. I do this exercise often because freaking myself out is a low-key passion of mine and I've thought of it while reading Chris Campanioni's novel Drift. I'm not even sure it qualifies as a novel, but I'll use the term for lack of a better one. But man, it was quite a head trip and I've enjoyed it despite not understanding everything.
When I say Drift barely qualifies as a novel, it's because it's a series of interrelated stories. They're all based around a recurring character named Chris Selden who, from what I gathered, is a metafictional stand-in for Chris Campanioni himself. Selden is a committed actor, model and well... duh, writer, who everyone loves for reasons that sometimes have to do with who he really is and sometimes have to do with the person he pretends to be for a living.
And when you're committed to your craft the way Selden is, it sometimes becomes complicated to differentiate reality from film, fabricated news stories, warped perception people have of you and the fiction emerging out of all this.
Of course, Drift is a novel that questions the nature of reality. It asks the question: what is reality when your life is devoted to creating different forms of fiction? Do you have such a thing as reality or is your reality the sum of your fictions? That's a lot of mental juggling, I know. But, I've enjoyed Drift because I believe this question applies to more or less everyone. And this question is exactly why I believe fiction is important: it can inform and shape your reality if you let it. Drift makes its case for it in a warped and dramatized way because it aims to entertain first an foremost, but it's not any less pertinent.
Drift doesn't resemble anything I've read before, but if I had to give you a comparison to writers you may know, think Jorge Luis Borges or Julio Cortazar. Maybe throw a little bit of J.G Ballard's apocalyptic imaginary in there. It won't be everybody's cup of tea. Novels like Drift don't straightforwardly deliver themselves and require active participation. It's not every reader that will accept having to make efforts to connect the dots. But while Chris Campanioni, like Borges and Cortazar, likes to play with form and perception, doesn't jeopardizes the story he's telling. He's a performer. He knows when and how to reward his audience.
So, I'm proud of myself here. I managed to explain to you why I enjoyed Drift and say almost nothing about Chris Selden's quest, which is another layer to this novel I'll leave you to unfold. This book doesn't have mass appeal at all, but it has a magnetic power that will draw people to it. Drift isn't a book you can read casually, at the beach or the airport. It chooses you. Its fleeting, shifting sense of reality and metafictional will confuse and alienate many readers. But it will also captivate those meant to read the book. I can't tell you whether to read Drift or not. It's a conclusion you need to draw from yourself after reading this review. But know that it's far removed from conventional storytelling.