I have been looking into schedules. Even when we read physics, we inquire of each least particle, What then shall I do this morning? How we spend our days is, of course, how we spend our lives. What we do with this hour, and that one, is what we are doing. A schedule defends from chaos and whim. It is a net for catching days. It is a scaffolding on which a worker can stand and labor with both hands at sections of time.

On the first of each month,
a guest writer
how he or she spends the day.

November 1, 2017: Christian Kiefer

I met Christian Kiefer at a Writing by Writers Boot Camp in Tahoe, but I didn’t know he was a musician as well as a writer until just now… and I’m writing his introduction while listening to his early albums.

I underlined so many passages in The Infinite Tides, Christian’s literary fiction debut, that it’s taken me a wonderful hour to re-read them. Keith Corcoran is an astronaut. He arrives home from the space station to find this:

She had left the coat hooks hanging by the door but the coats themselves were gone. Through the squared archway leading into the living room he could see the enormous sofa but there was no other furniture visible whatsoever… Empty. Absolutely empty.

After reading some sections, I would have to pause while they rolled over me. His language feels like a magic carpet taking me on a ride–more feel than words.

He scanned the trees. Their leaves blue and shadows deep and dark . Beyond them: the roofs of houses just like his, one after another, stretching on as far as one could see, distant hills with clusters of neighborhoods and curving streets of identical, earth-toned homes . He wondered momentarily what the bird might see from its widest high circle.

In the novel, the word fractal is repeated five or six times. A fractal is a never-ending pattern. It’s an abstract object used to simulate naturally occurring objects.

There was an emptiness within him. It was not unlike space itself. Like one infinity containing another.

Christian’s second novel of literary fiction, The Animals, starts with these seven words: “What you have come for is death.” The story begins as a man descends the dirt path between the animal enclosures–knowing, feeling the animals watching him.

You and the animals. And yet after everything you have done, everything you have tried to do, everything you promised yourself, today you know you will have to put on the old clothes of the killer once again.

Bill Reed runs a sanctuary for wounded animals, one of whom is a bear. Majer.

There stood the bear. He had risen onto his hind legs and towered now near the front of the cage, the clear surface of the little pool blocked by his bulk, the size and shape of him staggering, enormous, a creature of fur and claw and, in some universe not so far from this one, of killing, balancing there with a grace that seemed impossible and staring through the fence at Bill with eyes like small milky stones…

The Animals is one of three books shortlisted for the Grand Prix de Littérature Américaine 2017Kirkus Reviews says this:

This is a novel about duality: the loyalty and betrayal of friendship; the freedom and imprisonment of the spirit; the wild connection between human and animal; the goodness and horror that live in each of us. Devastatingly beautiful. This novel embodies why we write and why we read.

Christian created a startlingly beautiful soundtrack (not playlist as so many do, but soundtrack–think film) for the book. I’m listening to it now by way of Spotify…

The result is a finely textured sonic experience, moving from thick drone-based pieces to country-tinged melodies rooted in rhythm. The project is divided into two landscapes, that of North Idaho, where Bill Reed is trying to build his new life, and Northern Nevada, where his dangerous past resides. The listening experience is meant to resonate with the text itself, to be listened to separately or alongside.

You can find out more about it at Hired Hand.

Christian Kiefer earned his Ph.D. in American literature from the University of California, Davis, and in January of this year, he joined Ashland University as the new Director of the Master of Fine Arts in Creative Writing. He is also the author of a novella, One Day Soon Time Will Have No Place to Hide. He lives in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California with his wife, six sons, and baby daughter.

Come back on NOVEMBER 1st to read how CHRISTIAN KIEFER spends his days.