I read Christian Kiefer’s The Animals last year and loved it. So, I was happy to be sent a copy of his new novella. I didn’t expect it to be just like his previous work, but I also wasn’t expecting it to be so completely different. In fact, it’s completely different from anything I have read before.
Kiefer’s novella is written as a documentary in prose form, and it is absolutely convincing. You can picture the scenes changing, the film crackling, the photographs drifting by as the voices in the background talk in snippets about their lives. In this case, about Frank Poole’s life, the artist.
Frank’s art is about stopping time, keeping hold of that one perfect moment. He is in the middle of his biggest project yet; a suburb built using all white materials and sealed off from the world. But, he’s so wrapped up in his project that it’s hard for him to pay attention to the other things going on in his life. Like his wife and her pregnancy.
[Frank] “There’s just nothing better than that moment. It’s perfect. It really is. Nothing can go wrong. Nothing can get f**ked up or hurt or anything. It’s just perfect for that one instance before anything happens. And then time. And everything to come after.”
Caitlin met Frank while still in High School, and ended up giving up pursuing her own dreams to marry him and be a part of his. But, now she is pregnant and Frank is distant, intent on his art. He seems content to let Caitlin take care of this new ‘event’ like she does everything else in his life. Yet, really, I think Frank is trying to get his head around the idea of being a parent; especially in perspective to the experience he had with his own parents. The documentary within the book captures this interplay between the two as they figure things out, while also flashing back in time to Frank’s childhood.
[Caitlin] “You know, I’ve been married to him for coming up on twelve years and sometimes I still don’t know what he’s thinking.”
Why is he so interested in the concept of stopping time? Does it have something to do with his past? Maybe we are not supposed to know; maybe there’s no answer. I will admit here that I think some of this book might have been too smart for me; gone right over my head.
Tick tick tick and the whole thing effluxes to the next moment. Even now, every word you read is time you will never recall from the funnel. And so elabe. And so lapse. And so the run and the roll and the sleve. The whole of it flits away.
So, I will leave you with links to a few reviews that seem to have it figured out better than I have. But, do pick the book up yourself if you get a chance – it’s so well crafted, and I’d love to know what you think!
Kirkus Reviews: “What begins as a lyrical prose poem about the creative process quickly knots into a layered narrative about love, family, art, missed chances, and how we constantly write and rewrite the stories of our lives.”
Publishers Weekly: “Though housed inside a tiny package, this curiously engaging meditation on art, love, and time packs a wallop.”
River City Reading: “… what I appreciate most about One Day Soon… is how wildly different it is from its predecessor.”
Outlandish Lit: “The experimental format and Kiefer’s beautiful writing lend to some really visual scenes that show us important things about their relationship and Frank’s worsening struggle with his project and life.”
Lipstick & Libraries: “While the story itself is compelling and thoughtful, I found the real allure of the book to be the way it’s told. The documentary format allows us to travel to places a traditional narrative would not let us, flashing between past and present with dizzying speed.”