A Thing of the Moment

By Bruno Noble

"The I is a thing of the moment, and yet our lives are ruled by it. We cannot rid ourselves of this inexistent thing." (John Gray, Straw Dogs, 2002) A novel on the nature of the self

Fiction | Philosophy
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Published

Publication date: Spring 2018

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A Thing of the Moment is a narrative meditation on the subject of identity recounted in the first person singular by three women whom we follow from childhood to early adulthood, from the early 1970s to the late 1990s. It comprises their three interwoven stories… of how one girl deals with parental rejection, of how another emigrates from Japan in order to leave a strait-jacket society and of how a third deals with sexual abuse.

I studied philosophy at university. There, I read the rationalists and the empiricists, champions of the worlds of ideas and of things, respectively, and grappled academically with the mind/body split conundrum. I was thrilled (and horrified) to meet someone who ‘lived’ that dichotomy – that I had encountered so purely intellectually – as a means of coping with sexual abuse, as in, “this didn’t happen to me, it happened to my body.” This is what I explore in half-German, half-English Gaia, a young girl with a predisposition to see herself from the outside and to leave her body at moments of physical stress…

I travelled to Japan where, in this most conformist of societies, one acquaintance stood out for me: a rebel, an individual with the courage to plot an escape to London where, she believed, she could be herself. I considered her as having a ‘strong sense of self’, by which I refer to the conscious manner in which she took ownership of herself, her decisions, what happened to her, her measured reinventions of herself as her career progressed. Mie is resolute in her determination to allow no man to breach her defences…

A young woman I knew confided in me that when she looked in, she saw only a deep black hole… Sharon, by contrast, has no self-worth, ‘no sense of self’, by which I mean that she can only see herself through the eyes of others. A confused, middle child of Polish/Welsh and Jewish/Catholic parents, Sharon will do anything to be liked…

I worked in a bank where I discovered options – financial instruments that could destroy, save or make you, that made ‘choice’ concrete, that multiplied possibilities, that suggested to me that we have choice in everything we do, that encouraged one to take ownership of a life rather than succumb to determinism. Sebastian is tall, blond and handsome because if I’d made him short, dark and fat, my friends would have thought that he was me.

If Sharon is the thread that ties the lives of the three women together, Sebastian is the knot – the bow and the beau – he delivers the climax. Having befriended all three female protagonists, he ties the themes that run through the novel together – the soul, the body, meat, cannibalism, selfhood, sex, choice, the meaning people seek to attach to life and the role of cities in shaping our lives.

I wrote A Thing of the Moment as three distinct stories and then rewrote it, on the second occasion writing the women’s three stories in about eighty interweaving chapters. I rewrote it a second time, only this time embedding the stories within each other, thinking that that form – boxes within boxes, dolls within dolls – served as a good metaphor for the structure of the self, a reflection of the possible different layers of what constitutes a reflective being, and a hint that maybe the three women are not that different after all but represent three types of person we each could be. And, finally, I rewrote it again, reverting to the second, chronological way but with improvements prompted to me by the third version.

How these three distinctive girls go on to become women and think about themselves – or their selves – and go about their lives and their relationships in different ways is, effectively, the story, the tension of which delivers a crescendo of emotional development that I intend to be the reader’s too.

This first novel is for lovers of literary fiction, for patient readers, for philosophers and pseudo-philosophers, for lepidopterists, for men, for women, for butchers, for bankers, for armchair travellers, for strippers, for options traders, for readers who need to believe that life can get better.

Thank you for reading, thank you for pledging.

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