Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

Marathon novel demise

I appreciated the forthright opening paragraph of Mary Wellseley’s LRB blog on marathon running and the history of women’s participation: I wish more people would be forthright about crippling pain in the knees and all round misery rather than the jubilance of the finishing line in any running situation. I cannot be the only soul who finds running — enticing though it is — a major and relentless agony to every limb and ligament below my neck.

“Before I ran the London Marathon on Sunday I was told that I would ‘enjoy the first 15 miles’ and ‘be buoyed by the crowd’. No such luck. It hurt from the start – I never hit the famous ‘wall’, just felt a steady increase of pain over time – and the crowd might as well not have been there, as far as I was concerned.”

– See more at: http://www.lrb.co.uk/blog/2014/04/16/mary-wellesley/three-hours-and-thirty-seven-minutes/#comments

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The monogrammed cheese board has prevailed over the serious literary novel. By serious, I do not mean ham strung and sans humour, I mean a work that does not offer ease as an entry point, that does not insist on the linear to guide the reader to its close, a work that delights in language and mixing it up.  I mean a work that depends on language and form as it’s interrogation. Hence I concur with Will Self.

How do you think it feels to have dedicated your entire adult life to an art form only to see the bloody thing dying before your eyes?

However, this week I did read aloud the title of piece from Time magazine someone had tweeted to my fourteen year old son, the title inferred the dangers or what you should know about ebooks.. I did not click on it for the simple reason I don’t need any further reason to be depressed over the assumptions people are making about our perfectly apt and informed youth. My son responded “More bullshit”. I have no idea whether indeed the article was bullshit or had merit. Sauf to say that said 14-year-old, who is an avid video gamer, reads approx 2 ebooks a day and puts said mammy to shame with his present prolific reading habits and seriously adds to her credit card bill. Who can complain in the name of reading?

So how does a novelist concur with Will Self’s position and not begin digging a grave? Well first, the local cemetery is full and secondly, you do your life’s work, with the consolation if no one reads it, none shall be confused by it! Moreover, I continue to do my life’s work and a rare struggle it is and I console myself by reading in multiple languages. (*simple phrases lest that sound ambitious)

Any writer who disagrees with Will Self’s honest assessment either pens very linear and accessible “coat hook” works or reads only them or perhaps has an inheritance that permits them to write not with no worry how they’ll pay the ESB or feed a teenager or eventually crown the many uncrowned teeth in their crackled mouth?

Will Self remains, for all his admitted shortcomings, one of the few writers I can listen to on BBC Radio 4. He does not speak the language of the marketing department and he has ideas.

We go on. I maintain my faith in readers, while worrying fervently about how to reach them. 

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