"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
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.
There was a peppery irony to the fact that Sebastian left my life for Japan the week that Mie from Japan entered it. She was, for a short time, the prickly reminder of where or what I had lost him to but I couldn’t bring myself to hold it against her.
There was a quality to Mie that elevated her above the other Japanese desk assistants Yuuto had had. The others had been either expats’ daughters or expats’ wives who had sought diversion or pocket money rather than careers and who had allowed themselves to be overwhelmed by the pace and pressures of the macho trading room environment. The more uncertain and nervous they had become, the more irritable with them Yuuto had been and the louder his voice behind me had grown when in impatient instruction or reprimand. The more make-up and the more ostentatious the brands and labels the assistants had worn, the less time I had thought the assistants would last, confirmation that the bigger, the brasher the logo, the greater the insecurity that lay behind it.
On the occasion of my first seeing Mie, I had had to resist an impulse to laugh and had brought my hand to my mouth in involuntary caricature of the Japanese assistants’ gesture when addressed directly and embarrassed. The antithesis of her predecessors, she was dressed like a grandmother: in a below-the-knee-length woolen skirt, socks and sandals with an ever so slight heel and a plain, dark blouse. Over one arm was an ill-matching jacket; over the other hung a large, featureless handbag. Jet black, pomaded hair was pulled back in a tight bun above a plain face, cosmetics-free save the eyebrows that I initially thought had been entirely painted on so perfectly had they been plucked to crescent shapes.
Friday, 1 June 2018
Dear friends, patrons, supporters…
A Thing of the Moment has gone to press and will have Monday 5th June as its formal date of publication.
Over the next few days you will receive one email from Unbound informing you that the e-book is available to download and another requesting you confirm or edit your address. (You must do this even though the address they have for you is correct or the…
Very nearly nearly there
Sunday, 17 December 2017
This time last year I was crowdfunding A Thing of the Moment and you had received my begging email - and funded me fully in 14 days - an Unbound record? I don’t know for sure but I’d like to think so. Anyway, again: thank you. Very, very much.
I bet you never thought it would take so long to get a book published! Neither did I. Here’s an explanation of where the year has gone.
Please leave your ego at the door
Saturday, 1 July 2017
I am up to my knees in blood.
You know the expression - “killing your babies”. It’s what the literary trade terms cutting your favourite sentences out, editing your book ruthlessly. It’s what I’ve been doing these last few weeks, as advised by Elizabeth, my editor. Believe me, we’re talking mass murder here, the slaughter of innocent sentences by the dozen. Something like this…
On editing and a new Unbound novel
Monday, 27 March 2017
I think an update is long overdue! Sorry...
I received my first editorial feedback six weeks ago and have been editing and revising A Thing of the Moment broadly in line with the recommendations of Elizabeth _________ (my Unbound-assigned editor) that came in the form of five sides of A4 with the following headings: “Structure and Plotting”, “Pacing/Tension”, “Characters” and “Language”. Elizabeth…
A Thing of the Moment is now fully funded.
Friday, 16 December 2016
Dear friends and supporters
A Thing of the Moment is now fully funded. A heartfelt Thank you.
I am as touched by friends who have proved their kindness and given me their support as I am pleased by strangers who, by their pledging, have indicated that they see something of value in my synopsis and in the excerpts I posted.
In either case, thank you! Thank you for having pledged, for having…
The choice of excerpt
Tuesday, 13 December 2016
I've changed the excerpt. Two readers (who have read the book in its entirety) thought to tell me they considered it unrepresentative of the book as a whole. One found my choice of excerpt too "dark" and said that the book carries more optimism than that excerpt suggests. Another thought it too "masculine", when the voices are actually all women's, adding, "and no-one will look Rorschach inkblot…
Strap lines, titles, philosophy and two Unbounders
Wednesday, 7 December 2016
I sometimes think it harder to write the ‘blurb’ or strap line for a book than the book itself.
For the strap line, I had wanted two sentences from John Gray’s Straw Dogs: “The I is a thing of the moment, and yet our lives are ruled by it. We cannot rid ourselves of this inexistent thing.”
Clearly, that’s where my novel’s title is from but I had to wait for permission from The Wylie Agency…
About the rewards
Sunday, 4 December 2016
What on earth is “the author’s shed”? I asked myself the same question. Given that part of the deal is that my supporters get immediate access to it, I thought it best to find out and to put something in it – here it is.
The shed is essentially a project blog to which I can add exclusive content, project updates, excerpts from the book – in short, anything I like.
I thought that for…
These people are helping to fund A Thing of the Moment.