2020 isn’t being kind, is it? Do you remember the wildfires in Australia, and those terrible scenes of rescued koalas? Or that Brexit actually happened at the end of January? Harvey Weinstein’s trial; Trump’s impeachment and acquittal; tensions with Iran?
Covid-19 has taken over every part of our lives – whether we’re locked down or not. People are losing their jobs and businesses, unable to visit friends and family for comfort. Depending on where you live, governments are either succeeding in their handling of it or failing. There are conspiracy theories and denials. There are people grieving for loved ones who are gone before their time.
And now we’ve witnessed the despicable death of George Floyd, and the protests which are springing up across the world in solidarity and support of black people who have always been frightened and fearful of just living their lives. Will these protests achieve anything? Will they too be forgotten as 2020 gallops on? I don’t want to tempt fate, but surely we can’t tolerate any more.
Among all this, I and other writers and artists of all kinds are trying to publish and write and paint and compose. We’re navigating a new reality. Hands up if you’ve watched a film or TV programme recently and squirmed when two people stood in a lift together, or a waitress leaned between diners to set drinks down on the table.
I have so many questions, and each one leads to several more. How will theatres and music venues re-open safely? Will people care about buying art for their walls? Will everything have a pandemic sheen around it? Will the characters in novels and films have to adhere to social distancing? How long will it be before we are comfortable in the presence of strangers?
My novel – brand new in the world, and written long before social distancing – seems so insignificant. Why do I matter when these huge, potential turning-points in history, are taking place around me. Not quite around me. I live in a small Cornish town – our population is mostly white, our brush with Covid-19 has been slight. I have nothing new or important to offer. My insignificance is increasing.
Yet, authors have always written in times of great suffering. Agatha Christie published eleven books during WWII, Brave New World by Aldous Huxley was published in 1932 during the Great Depression, and Shakespeare wrote Macbeth during the epidemic of 1606 although the King Lear theory is hotly disputed.
So, here I am, launching a book in the most peculiar of times. I will shout about it from the rooftop. I will make little quips on my Facebook page and post pictures of the cover, and urge you to buy it and tell your friends about it. I will appear to be ignoring the horror around me. But I’m not. It’s very much present.