Ian the goldfish resides in a one-gallon bowl on the 27th floor balcony of the Seville on Roxy. Far above the traffic noise and the masses of pedestrians coursing through the street below, Ian circles a pink plastic castle, looking out over the city of steel, glass and brick in the fading afternoon light. He longs for the adventure of exploration and, when the opportunity arises, he escapes his bowl, clears the balcony railing and finds himself airborne, plummeting twenty-seven stories toward Roxy Street below. In the short seconds it takes to complete his descent, Ian witnesses the lives of the residents of the Seville. There’s a handsome grad student, his girlfriend, and his mistress. There’s a lonely superintendent, an agoraphobic sex phone worker and a boy who thinks he can travel time. There’s a pregnant lady who goes into a troubled labour and a construction worker with a secret that will soon be revealed. Ian witnesses love lost and found, life’s beginnings and endings, fears overcome and new bonds formed. Fishbowl is a chronicle of the interconnected, collaborative life lived by the Seville on Roxy residents. In the seconds it takes for Ian to plunge 27 stories to the pavement, his journey illuminates how no single person really lives their life, we all live each other’s together.
Bradley Somer Biography
Bradley Somer holds degrees in Archaeology and Anthropology and spent many years tromping through the wilds of Canada and the US, the scrub brush of Australia and along the beaches of the Caribbean looking for artifacts to fill in the hidden stories of human prehistory. He now just makes up stories because it’s easier.
His writing has appeared in dozens of literary magazines and anthologies over the past fifteen years. His first novel, Imperfections, was published by Nightwood Editions in Canada and his latest novel, Fishbowl, has been published in many countries and translations around the world.
Connect with Bradley on Twitter @BradleySomer or at www.bradleysomer.com
Bradley Somer on the Inspiration Behind Fishbowl
Where do stories come from?
I believe stories can be found everywhere and in everything. There’s as much a story behind a toaster left on a scratched countertop in an abandoned farmhouse kitchen, as there is a bank account balance that is drawn down to zero in one withdrawal. There’s as much a story in an empty fishbowl on a thrift store table as there is that noise heard on the other side of an apartment door. The things and people around us all have stories to tell: where they are, how they got there, where they are going.
That toaster on the counter was left behind when the old couple that worked the farm their whole life was foreclosed on by the bank. The toaster on the counter, it made the last breakfast they would have in their family home and there wasn’t the time or a box left to pack it in. The woman I saw on the train this morning, she took all the money out of the joint account. She’s leaving her husband and needs money to disappear from him for a while. Maybe it wasn’t her though, but someone took out her life’s savings.
And that’s how the premise for Fishbowl came about, an empty fishbowl on a balcony and the quiet noises of life happening all around, behind the doors and walls of a downtown apartment building. It sprouted from the oft-overlooked fact that everyone is having a life just as full of wonder and hardship as our own and how we interact can steer that life unexpectedly as easily as it can leave a lasting mark on our own. Life is interactive, people ricocheting off of one another, veering in and out of each other’s existence every minute, every day. We truly don’t live our own lives; we live each other’s together.
How many different ways are there to tell a story?
I believe there are about as many ways to tell a story as there are stories to be told. Sure, this is a completely obtuse answer, but fiction has the freedom to wander from one character’s mind to another’s, to travel time, to leap from London to Rome to Mars to points beyond with a simple sentence and a reader’s willing imagination. With the right structure, anything is possible.
The events in Fishbowl unfold over the course of a half hour, with all stories reaching their conclusion in the four seconds it takes for Ian to fall from the 27th floor. And a lot can happen in a half hour: birth, death, falling in and out of love, secrets are revealed, brave steps are taken to change the course of a life, and so much more. From birth to death and everything that happens in between, the concept for Fishbowl was that an entire collective life is lived by the residents of the apartment building in this short span of time. That was the intent with which Fishbowl was written… a hefty order that may have even worked.