Review: One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide, by Christian Kiefer

14 Mar

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Last year I read Christian Kiefer’s The Animals, which made it onto my list of favorite books. After that emotional rollercoaster I was of course looking forward to any new books from him, but the blurb for One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide would have grabbed me no matter who wrote it. It is about an installation artist named Frank Poole and his wife Caitlin who are attempting to turn an entire subdivision into an art piece. Painted all white, sealed away, and left to remain perfect forever. It is told in a rather unusual format: it is a scene-by-scene description of a documentary, and you know how I feel about strange book formatting. I just can’t resist it!

I am a pretty fast reader, but this book took me several days to get through. I’d read 50 pages, put it down to think, and that was it for the day: definitely unusual for me, but this is not a book you devour in one sitting (though its length, 193 pages, definitely makes that possible). It’s a slow, thoughtful read, which is funny because the pace of the documentary is actually quite quick. It’s also a beautiful book: the cover is matte white and the words are glossy, which of course fits with the all-white subdivision theme. I’d take a picture of my copy but it’s a mess: post-it notes sticking out of dozens of different locations.

One Day Soon reminded me from the very beginning of one of my all-time favorite novels, House of Leaves. The inscription reads:

Let us be clear. The time you spend reading these words will not be returned.

Ominous right from the start! I’d hardly call it a horror novel but there is a huge sense of unease through the book. We bounce from the subdivision project to Frank and Caitlin talking about their past to cut-up images of American life. Endless descriptions of identical houses, stores, malls. Which brings to mind another of my favorite books, Invisible Cities, a text that is merely descriptions of cities (but also so much more).

Buildings and landscapes without beauty. But is this not America?

On the surface there seems to be a critique of the same-ness of American life, of how a Starbucks looks identical no matter where in the country you are. And that’s certainly one angle of it: how same-ness makes us feel, shapes our actions. But Frank’s intention is not to draw attention to that corporate mentality, but to preserve something perfect. All of his installations (and we get to see many of them over the course of the “film”) are about saving a moment in time, a perfect moment that can never go wrong or move forward into uncertainty because it is behind glass and protected. Protected from time. Which of course plays directly into the name of the novel, which is also the name of Frank’s subdivision installation.

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. It is narrated mostly in the second person, with the narrator (who seems to be the documentary itself at times) using “we” and “you” to create a sense of intimacy–and also unease.

Perhaps Frank is not present now. Perhaps there is no interviewer and no film and no web of text to scrim over this illusion. Perhaps there is not even you.

This is the kind of weird meta horror I live for in books. Seriously, this book felt like it was written just for me: we even get a sly nod to Majer from The Animals (“a grizzly stands to look out through the glass”). It’s quirky, unusual, strange, and packs an emotional wallop.  I could go on for pages and pages about how much I love it, but I’m sure that would get a little dull after a while so I will end with this: if you like strange fiction, read this book.

One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide will be released on March 22nd, and you can order a copy here.

[ARC provided by the publisher, all ideas and thoughts are my own]

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  1. March 2016 Reading Wrapup | Lipstick & Libraries - April 7, 2016

    […] Day Soon Time Will Have No Place Left To Hide, by Christian Kiefer. Finished March 9th. I have a full and very long review of this up already, so I won’t rehash my thoughts here. Safe to say, I loved […]

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