Voices From Lockdown #3: Edward Carey, Texas
Edward Carey, author of Little and the forthcoming The Swallowed Man, talks about his experience of lockdown in the suburbs of Texas, and about writing and drawing his way through Covid-19.
We have a small garden and live in a quiet and green neighbourhood, so we’re very lucky. Texans are friendly people – something that took me a while to get used to – strangers are often saying hello to you. They do so more now on our daily walks. Perhaps a little less since the use of masks has been requested. I am not a natural Texan.
It’s a strange business knowing that you must go near no one. People have always been dangerous, but this is something other, suddenly all people may be dangerous. Strange too how quickly we get used to this new way of living, or think we do, but then suddenly a wave of what used to be comes back and then the world grows gloomy for a bit. To begin with it seemed something like a cross between Christmas and Armageddon, so nice to be close to the people I love but so alarming that that is our current limit of human company. Trying to keep busy is essential. Trying not to listen to the daily ugliness coming from the current president. Trying not to sink. Keeping the kids as happy as possible. Maybe even writing a bit.
The novel I was working on was set in a children’s hospital and I’m unable to write that book right now. I’ve started another though and if it works that’s great and if it doesn’t then that’s fine too. As long as I’m enjoying working on it that’s all that matters, I’m trying to remind myself of the books I loved as a child, to find somewhere within me the simple love of story.
Our routine involves the kids doing school work, a bit of exercise, trying to get a little writing done and doing a daily drawing. I decided early on, on a whim, that I’d do a drawing every day and post it on Twitter and Instagram. As a way of keeping sane, really. To provide myself with a piece of structure. A few days in people started to ask whether I’d draw a certain writer or maybe an animal or a character from Shakespeare or Dickens. And suddenly that was a way of communicating. I’m drawing mostly what people ask me to draw, so I’m going places where I wouldn’t naturally go. Today is my fiftieth day of doing this (and I have turned fifty during this lockdown). Today I’m drawing an echidna. I’ve no notion about echidnas but someone I know virtually asked for one and so she’ll get one. I’m trying to cling to actual things. Writing can feel like make believe and in an attempt to make the main character of this new maybe-book seem a little more real to me I made her in clay and gave her some glass eyes from a flea market I picked up in Paris a couple of years ago – Paris! Flea markets! People!
I’m taking it slowly, I’m not looking any further than one drawing at a time. I don’t know what number I’ll make it to, but everyday there’s the pencil. And a pencil is a thing.
Edward Carey is a novelist, visual artist and playwright. He is the author of three acclaimed novels, Observatory Mansions, Alva & Irva and Little, which was longlisted for the International Dublin Literary Award, the RSL Ondaatje Prize, the Walter Scott Prize and the Rathbones Folio Prize, and shortlisted for the HWA Gold Crown. Born in England, Edward teaches at the University of Texas at Austin. The Swallowed Man is published by Gallic Books in November 2020.