Grave Goods – Edward Carey

Edward Carey. Photograph by Elizabeth McCracken
Edward Carey. Photograph by Elizabeth McCracken

Today’s Grave Goods guest is the author, illustrator and playwright, Edward Carey. Edward’s novels include Little (published in 20 countries), Observatory Mansions, Alva and Irva: the Twins Who Saved a City, and of Heap House, Foulsham, and Lungdon (the YA Iremonger Trilogy). His most recent novel, The Swallowed Man, is the story of Geppetto’s two years confinement in the belly of a whale, and is published by Gallic Press. 

During lockdown, Edward has been producing an illustration a day, often taking requests from his Twitter followers. You can see them over at his Twitter feed.

As always, the guest is offered five categories from which they can draw their choices; Tools of the Trade, Food for the Journey, Memento Vivere, Ex Libris, Lucky Deposition, and an optional message from the beyond the grave.

Tools of the Trade – a tool/implement without which you’d be lost, whether it’s a pen, trowel, notepad, bottle-opener or scanning electron microscope.

‘I’d like a lot of pencils please, and quite a few pencil sharpeners and many pads. And a back pack to keep them in. I think I’d find drawing in the afterlife a help, drawing people and things that I miss would be a comfort I hope, making them more tangible. I like to draw things that scare me too, and relax me. I’d try and draw a great inventory. Drawing focuses my mind, but also, and perhaps most of all, is an escape. Drawing what’s in front of me helps me define it and confront it. Nothing feels to me more full of promise than a blank page and a sharp pencil.’

Food for the Journey – a favourite portable snack, or a portion of something from your funeral feast.

‘I feel like we’re all living ‘Grave Goods’ right now. And I find myself experiencing, along with my family here in Texas, my wife and two kids, a deep and continual longing for Britain. I miss my British people very much. I know the country’s being run by morons right now, but I’m more frightened of the morons here. Life feels very cheap in America. I’d like to go home. I am from East Anglia and love the coast that Sebald so beautifully mapped in Rings of Saturn. I humbly ask for – and not unlike John Mills in Ice Cold in Alex – a pint of Adnams bitter.’

Memento Vivere – a memento of a companion/event to bring you cheer (can be an image).

‘The thing that has made this dark time bearable has been being with my wife and kids, and so as I toddle off into wherever it is, I’d like to have proof of them upon me. Photographs, drawings, writings, clothes even. There then, that’s armour.’

Ex Libris – the book or text you are least likely to tire of reading.

‘Shakespeare, of course. Or Bruno Schulz’s complete fictions – that’s a book that keeps changing each time I pick it up, it’s pure magic. Or, and this may be cheating, I’d like Schulz’s lost novel The Messiah.’

Lucky Deposition – a bonus selection chosen by the guest – can include transport.

‘I can’t quite decide, I think most of all I’d like – surely, this is possible – all the objects in the River Thames. Like your former guest, Lara Maiklem, I love mudlarking and have particularly happy memories of searching for treasure with my family. To spend the afterlife going through pieces of the afterlife would be a great blessing. One of the things that has kept my son sane during this extensive lockdown is getting all his mudlarking treasures out, cataloguing them and staring at them with wonder.

But then, I suppose, the other place, might be exactly like the Thames foreshore at low tide after all.’

A Message from Beyond the Grave – an entirely discretionary option – leave a note for a future generation to find.

‘Please, please do better than us. I’m not sure in the end we did at all well, sorry.’


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