society pages

A Dispatch From The Drift’s Latest Party

Animation: The Cut

It’s my unassailable belief that lit-mag parties are no fun: Food is absent or abysmal, egos and alt-lit discourse are rampant, and I always end up trudging back to the subway feeling underread. On Wednesday, I decided to put my theory to the test as I joined the crowd of young media people, pure randos, and rising literati lined up outside Ainslie on the Bowery to celebrate The Drift’s latest issue. I brushed past a group of winged-liner girls lighting cigarettes in the freezing wind, got an X scrawled on my hand, and walked inside.

In the rise and fall of lit mags and journals (R.I.P. Astra), The Drift, which was recently backed by the art gallery David Zwirner, seems to be doing okay, not only staying afloat but earning nods of approval from established bigwigs like Harper’s and The New Yorker. Founded by recent Harvard grads Rebecca Panovka and Kiara Barrow in the summer of 2020, the magazine bills itself as a journal of politics, literature, and criticism for “young writers who haven’t yet been absorbed into the media hivemind and don’t feel hemmed in by the boundaries of the existing discourse.” In case that makes no sense to you, its website features pointers on what they want (“upbeat cynicism; un-self-serious screeds”) what they don’t want (“thoughts on Heidegger, Nietzsche, Foucault)” and what they’re bored by (“your love life.”)

Their parties have become a media frenzy of their own, providing endless Twitter fodder the morning after, but a friend of mine described the whole evening best when she said, “They’re a gathering of nerds who want to drink and shit-talk The New Yorker.” Plus a smattering of scene-y downtown kids who were just there to party. Below, a dispatch on the evening.

Literati esteem.

Being a short person in a dimly lit restaurant, it was difficult to tell whether any famous writers were in attendance, but I enjoyed the low-key vibes and anonymous crowd. I ran into my writing-camp roommate from the ninth grade, met associate Drift editor Lake Micah, and was told Luster author Raven Leilani was there, but who’s to say.


I was here for the spaciousness and ambiance of the multilevel Italian restaurant, which was somewhere between dive bar and rustic date night: Cans of tomato sauce, boxed Ronzoni, and wine bottles lined the walls; plants spilled out of a rowboat that hung from the ceiling; gaudy chandeliers nearly kissed the tables, including the one for foosball, where I observed a horny couple getting handsy.

Photo: Tanya Kulesh


After the reading and the test thumping of the microphone had ended, the DJ did whatever he wanted to do, from spinning “Them Changes” to “Walk on By,” the latter of which prompted a man beside me in a button-up to bob his head. Who isn’t here for Warwick?


I fortified myself with a giant blazer and jeans for the occasion and appreciated that anything casual or semi-casual worked: The night was a sea of denim, black dresses, sweaters, and tiny buns blending together until everyone’s outfit appeared more or less the same to me.  

Photo: Tanya Kulesh

Food and drink.

I heard a rumor there would be free pizza at some point, but it never materialized. Some attendees sitting at the back-room tables ordered food; I sipped my $20 martini and watched them, hungry and frugal. One of the couples at the rotating date table next to me dined on what appeared to be roast chicken and some kind of creamy potato soup; a friend of theirs came over and longingly inhaled. “That smells divine,” she said. You take what you can get.


I embedded myself at a table where two women were eating a full-on Italian meal replete with salads, flatbreads, red wine, and hunks of burrata. Neither of them subscribe to The Drift or has read an issue. “I’m just extremely online,” one told me. “‘Heterosexual oppression,’” her friend read off the back of the issue. “I could get into this.”

In the third venue’s most secluded dining room, a group of women were catching up; none of them subscribed to The Drift either (“I do subscribe to New York Magazine, though,” one told me). I small-talked with a friend of a friend who joked that John Grisham is her sugar daddy and then, at last, Irish exited.

A Dispatch From The Drift’s Latest Party