Sunday, June 19, 2005

Writers who Illustrate

My interview with novelist/playwright/artist/illustrator Edward Carey in Starmag today. The brief was to focus mainly on his involvement in the Macbeth in the Shadows project.

Those of us who were lucky enough to hear Carey read from his novel-in-progress, (provisionally titled Little after the stature of it's diminutive heroine) on Tuesday night at Maya gallery really had a treat. The story is a delight, very darkly humourous. And I loved the way he became his characters as he read: the macabre doctor with a collection of body parts in bottles in his lab, the mother who becomes his housekeeper and later commits suicide, and the child, Marie, who narrates the tale. (Do drop by and read Minamona's account of the evening.)

Must confess I'm absolutely fascinated by what Carey had to say during my interview with him about the way in which his art feeds into his writing. He has more to say about the subject in this article .

Carey's first novel, Observatory Mansions, actually grew from a character he found himself sketching over and over, while wondering who on earth he was. This character was eventually given words and became the white-gloved Francis Orme who narrates the very dark adult fairy tale. There are nine of Carey’s etching’s in the book and he also had an exhibition in Ireland eighteen months or so ago of items listed in the eccentric inventory list at the end of the book.

When Carey came to write his second novel, Alva and Irva, he made an intricate plasticine sculpture of the imaginary city in which the story is set.

And for Little (to be published later in the year) he reckons he will have completed several pieces of sculpture including a 4’6’ ventriloquist doll which wears a wig made from his wife’s hair, carved wooden masks and a wax death mask.

I told Carey that the strange gothic world of his novels and illustrations remind me of Mervyn Peake’s Gormenghast, an absolute favourite of mine.

Was Peake an influence? “Yes," he says, particularly becasue publishers don't especially like to novelists who want to include illustrations: "Peake gives me faith to keep going on. I love his work.” Other writer/illustrators he admires enormously include Scottish writer Alasdair Gray

and Bruno Shultz, a Polish writer who wrote two books of short stories before being murdered by the Gestapo.

Carey also mentioned other writer/illustrators whom he greatly admires (and some of the names on the list really surprised me): Kipling, August Strinberg, Victor Hugo, Hans Christian Anderson and Robert Louis Stevenson.

My own interest in the way that art might work alongside writing springs from a great desire to try to understand how the creative process works for different individuals. I've experimented a little bit with drawing as a way into writing on my courses and have found that it leads to some of the strongest pieces of writing. I'd like to push this further.


Sufian said...

Hey Sharon, you're mentioned in Complete-Review Lit Saloon!


bibliobibuli said...

Yes, I discovered this this morning and I'm grinning from ear to ear, especially as they've linked me as a lit blog to be visited.

Quote: (This story also leads us to Sharon Bakar's weblog, Bibliobibuli -- the first Malaysian literary weblog we've stumbled across.)

I am thrilled and I am flattered and I'd better start being a bit more litbloggish.

Thanks a lot for caring enough to come and tell me, Sufian.