May 1, 2013
Happy Workers Day to all ! I am delighted to be launching our artists book tonight 8pm at UNIT/PITT 15 E Pender from the Rereading the Riot Act project I curated with UNIT/PITT, an artist run centre based in Vancouver.
The book is part research diary/ part scrapbook /part pasteup and it collates a bunch of material related to and in response to the reading of the Riot Act to the relief camp workers at Victory Square by Mayor Gerry McGeer on April 23, 1935.
April 30, 2013
Little Star editor Ann Kjellberg has written a touching blog on Malarky being award the Amazon.ca First Novel Award. It’s a mutual appreciation society as I admire the gesture and quality of Little Star and urge you all to discover it. (They have an app with a weekly edition)
“We are thrilled and pretty surprised that a challenging, complex, and often uncomfortable (though, indeed, hilarious) book, and its singular and utterly deserving author, should be singled out this year to win the Amazon.ca First Novel Prize. Brava, Anakana Schofield, and bravo, this time, Amazon!“
April 26, 2013
Here is the citation for the Amazon.ca First Novel Award which I won on Wednesday for Malarky.
“Malarky is a bold first novel from an author whose prose hums with electric wit and linguistic daring,” Stuart Woods, editor of Quill & Quire and head judge for the 37th First Novel Award said in a statement. “The novel traverses darkly comic territory with intelligence and poise, relating the story of an unnamed narrator whose resilience in the face of life’s disappointments will stay with readers long after the verbal pyrotechnics have dissipated. Anakana Schofield is a true original, and her novel is a delight.”
And here is the link to my very pink looking appearance on CTV’s CANADA AM programme.
April 25, 2013
I can report a boldly, cold wind today in Toronto and some sunny old news last night. Malarky won the 37th Amazon.ca First Novel Award to my astonishment. In my thank you speech I acknowledged the importance of the continuum of literature over single titles. I acknowledged how important the work of three Vancouver women writers has been to me: Helen Potrebenko, Renee Rodin and Judith Copithorne.
It was a lovely night, a great deal of craic was had ensemble and I am most grateful for the warmth of those around me and the jokes. The snacks were spectacular.
This morning I was on Canada AM where I got rather up close to the weather forecaster and read for host of the show. I was quite astounded by how morning telly works. The sets, the shifts, the mini episodes. I will post the video of me making a spectacular morning heap of myself when I find a plug outlet.
In the meantime, here is the National Post story including a rather unhinged looking photo.
Thank you to everyone who sent me such warm messages: they were much appreciated. My mother will be getting a new back door with the winnings and my son will be going to the long-overdue orthodontist.
April 24, 2013
Walter Benjamin is an excellent person to spend your birthday with in a luxury hotel, even if it takes you 10 minutes to find the light switch amid such luxury.
I’ve been reading his Russian diary piece and am struck by the difficulty he had obtaining tickets for the theatre. He did not have difficulty obtaining a sleigh ride.
Toronto is sunny, with a nippy wind about her I can report. Her people are hungry for spring.
April 19, 2013
Last Monday pour la soiree we were promised bands of rain and they arrived. It was a major weather event. I was delighted to have this confirmed by email from a friend out in it, with a headache. One would not want to be alone in the knowledge.
I noticed the arrival of one particular and specific band of rain. We were caught in its grime, more glue than fog and yet it had this slurry quality. I tweeted something to this tune and my favourite weather forecaster called it “rain poetry”. In any case it has strengthened my resolve to write a weather novel.
And beyond the same window right now, it’s lifted! A dazzle out there, blue and white and leaves between yellow and red with the sunlight zapping them. Violin solo on the e and a string happening out there. It would nearly send you outside with your spade to the garden. (or community garden in my case).
I’ve been pondering more and more the shift from a critical or thinking culture to a prize culture or I might term it, the Pavlovian drift from a critical culture to a prize culture, specifically in the literary culture. Prizes were once a small sideshow now they appear to be the only means by which writers can sell books. It seems other art forms have held onto critical spaces or create them. Is this engineered from within disciplines, is it the artists/the practicioners who create and demand this? Are writers now merely sock puppets for the market is my next pondering? Was there ever a critical culture in literature in this country? What would you call the culture where a small press collection of short stories could travel around the country in and out of communities, to packed readings, to discussions — as one author described to me used to be the case. And how to look forwards rather than wistfully or otherwise backwards? There does seem to be a correlation in the diminishing opportunties for writers to be paid to write and think about literature (and related arts) and the massive upsweep in the emphasis on prize lists, prizes and this system of bingo by which it all operates. Also, an increasing emphasis on writers telling us (or we are chronically asking them) how they write and get published rather than inquiries about what they’ve written and how it might sit beside some of the many other works that have been written.
What prompted me to think on this was reading Woolf dissecting Joyce. Historically writers wrote a great deal more criticism or were at least able to secure critical writing as a source of income, which meant people were reading more criticism. Appetites were different or now differ which in itself isn’t surprising, however it pays to pause and contemplate what we are or have drifted to. It’s important to examine the implications and directions of market forces on shaping our reading and how and where those locus of power presently lie. I believe the effect of those forces to be a truncating one, which is actually anti literature, anti reading. But I’ve always thought that the organization or sorting of information will be the story of the next decade. How to find things amid the pile of (now) endless possibilities ? Perhaps this in turn will revitalize us in how we also seek out and uncover and desire to uncover literature. I certainly see subcultures already emerging and engaged with this, in response perhaps to the aforementioned truncating.
April 15, 2013
Today I found myself contemplating the declining quality of clothes pegs I was trying to recall their quality in the 1970’s and 1980’s and whether they were sturdier? I rather drew a blank. But I think the expectation existed that your clothes pegs would endure beyond a few peg ups. Now they seem to crumble after a snap or two on a single sock.
Concurrently i noticed a sign on a Kits bar/restaurant today that stated “LOCAL since ’09”, I thought this indicative of the present state of things given that 2009 is only 3 years ago. I am used to seeing businesses in other places proclaiming on their signs they’ve been in biz since 1921, 1940, 1959. The shoe repair man around the corner Bob has been in business for I think it might be 50 years. I wonder if proclaiming being local for 3 years will eventually become the mark of vintage.
In weather news, the sun was ever so bright today. I was surprised to see people out sunbathing, there was light, but not necessarily heat. Goose pimple city ! I concluded the sunbathers must be in the menopause.
April 9, 2013
Thank God for Polly Toynbee today amid the stench of hagiographic distortion of Thatcher and her legacy. Her legacy included Tony Blair and gives us the current Cameron war on the poor. Many of us who had the misfortune to live under her experience a near PTSD at the memory of it. It was brutal, relentless and shameful. Wapping, The Miners Strike, The Hunger Strikers, Brixton, Toxteth, Section 28, The Poll Tax the list is endless. That Obama could use the words champion of freedom and liberty indicate he’s either banged his head or needs to fire his speech writer. Although an American friend sent me a note today explaining “she was a hero in the US because we like fascists”
also read this piece if you are tired of the kettle banging use of words like inspiration and the ludicrous assertion she saved Britain.
April 3, 2013
When I read the above news stories I thought of Neil Smith, Geographer (RIP). Here’s Jeff Derksen’s (who introduced me to Smith’s work) tribute to him
I had a chat with Neil Smith, when he was here some years ago, about our Rereading the Riot Act project, which we were just embarking on and he told me stories of public actions/interventions in the Lower East Side of NY around history, public space, mapping and protest.
#Writing and protest. Protesting writing. Writing protest. Rewriting protest.
In light of the above, it’s curious to note the current near obsessive war on the poor taking place in the UK and the demonization of people on benefits, under the guise of welfare reform. Ricky Tomlinson offers 10 lies we’re told about welfare while Polly Toynbee explains “An avalanche of benefit cuts will hit the same households over and over, with no official assessment of how far this £18bn reduction will send those who are already poor into beggary.”
April 3, 2013
The evidence is in. It is much easier to repair a hoover than an italian expresso maker. Both items I have attempted to repair in the past 7 days, both items were recycled hand me downs from friends. I was thrilled to discover the world of online hoover/vacuum repair videos and perused a few too many given I had a very specific hoover to repair, however I had to contemplate the extent of the available documentation. I must commend and comment on the enthusiasm of some of these repair-sharing folk. In the world of hoovers, the rapid naming of the parts number is impresssive. Hoover repair parts nearly constitute their own language, a member of the bingo language group.
Gaggia expresso makers also have an online army of surgeons who detail their “mods” and repairs and thanks be to God for the one who uploaded his “mod”, which I had little interest in, except it showed it jigsaw level stages how to open the darned machine. What a revelation and what a disappointment that after taking it apart from both ends, three times and once respectively, the darn beast still made the forceful WAAAAAH noise and no water appeared when I turned it on. The surgery on the coffee maker used approx 7 different screw drivers and a good ole hardy kitchen knife.
I wonder if the people vs built in obsolescence could become an act, a protest movement of economic resistance ? I have to confess I am very tempted to chuck this hefty gaggia, yet I know I am probably three steps away from fixing it, so should return to the battlefield. Fixing stuff is always rewarding even if you destroy you hands in the process.
Sunshine with deadlines has been the weather forecast today.
March 31, 2013
Oh sweet spring, we’re so happy to see you.
Sunshine with cherry blossoms.
Easter supper of lamb and Grandma’s best scalloped potatoes.
Time to start planning the community garden plot.
March 30, 2013
In the realm of active delusion, very little beats the kind of language and artifice employed in Vancouver real estate condo names and on bilboards advertising the life that awaits, inside, between those light switches Tonight, on an adventure up Kingsway I noted one of the most ridiculous ones I’ve seen since that nutty billboard that promised its occupants would live in “the highest point on Main Street” (Main St is hardly Mt Kilimanjaro of heights) … Today I actively groaned at the stupidity of “Corum: where worlds converge.” or perhaps I misremember the spelling, but I read it as the word quorum meaning sufficient people to vote.
I offer in response: Ghost Estate! Service drought! Pop up – mash down housing!
I recall the rush to occupy that occurred in Ireland during the boom, especially in Dublin, and the intense condification that took place there. This idea that if you didn’t hurl yourself at the train, you had no hope of a seat. Now the train is full of seats and there’s little chance, maybe, of getting off it. Well you can get off alright, if you surrender your keys. And as every good trainspotter will tell you: the identity of that train now is negative equity.
March 24, 2013
My first turkey, my first frozen turkey, my first frozen turkey that I’ve ever taken out of a packet, my first frozen packetless turkey went nose first into a pan inside the sink because I failed to defrost it and that’s what frozen turkeys need to defrost so said Grandma.
Grandma who lent me the roasting pan, the roasting pan that I didn’t have because I’ve never cooked a small chicken before never mind a whole, packetless frozen turkey.
My first defrosted packetless turkey went into the borrowed roasting pan and into the oven and I over cooked it to 225 degrees but all was well because I told the two lads that all must be well when a woman cooks her first frozen packetless turkey on a random Friday, three days before Passover, just because. The lads dealt with the spuds and the asparagus and the gravy and claimed they did all the cooking, which is sort of true since I was busy fatigued after lifting the heavy bird up and down so many times.
In the circular spirit of Gertrude I might yet cook another one. She was a fine bird, she had personality under the electric element. I salute that first frozen turkey on a Friday in March. I have named her Gertrude.
March 22, 2013
Thank you to all the wonderful people who live in Campbell River and who attended the Words on the Water Festival this past weekend. Thank you to the organizers of this superb festival. It was one of the warmest and most engaged audiences I have ever read to. The audience gather for multiple events over two days, so that’s quite a commitment for them and their spirits held strong. This is very rewarding for a writer. I like Campbell River even more than I did historically. Is this possible? Maybe I need to move there someday.
The food was also terrific. A blueberry chutney on a pistachio encrusted wild salmon is still on my mental tastebuds and I loved the Jimmy K sparkling wine from the South End Vineyard on Quadra. We stayed in a lovely spot called Dolphins Resort. I read with Fred Wah at one event and am now reading his critical essays: Faking It Poetics & Hybridity. Fred interviewed Mohawk poet & visual artist & Poet Laureate Janet Rogers, which I enjoyed and Janet, along with JJ Lee, also taught me ping pong. I look forward to nattering more to Janet when I go to Victoria/Lewungen Land in May for the BC Book Prize Gala. And again I thank the good people of Campbell River for their warm support and excellent company.
March 22, 2013
Yesterday there was a very sudden weather event. By sudden, I mean it had come to my notice all of a sudden. I was only just finished contemplating the last Pineapple Express, there had been some sunny spells and patchy drizzle and then the sudden weather event occurred. By evening the sudden weather event was in full swing-dazzle.
Wind. A biting wind followed by ransacking rain. How do I know this? I did what every sensible weather wonderer does and went jogging in it! I also compiled a bunch of descriptions of this weather event as it happened from friends in Victoria, Nanaimo, Strathcona and the DTES. The Island, Victoria, saw the worst of the wind. One friend reported her AM radio signal was interfered with! Another her house was shaking by the wind.
Today sun. We like this although we didn’t dislike the sudden weather event it merely caught our full attention.
In a moment of madness I have purchased a large frozen turkey. I have never successfully cooked a small chicken and I own no roasting pan to fit the large turkey. One has been procured. Tomorrow amid the other details of my work day I will be attempting to roast a turkey. It feels like a random act to be roasting a turkey on an average Friday.
My other bubbling ambition this week is to frame a house. I have watched youtube videos but am not yet overcome with any super woman sense I too can frame a house from watching them. I did, however, build a teapot shelf. I am not yet quite satisfied with my teapot shelf.
I was disappointed that youtube does not contain the how to roast a turkey if you don’t have a roasting pan video I hoped existed. There’s a niche for someone with ambition…
March 15, 2013
Book prizes and book prize culture are problematic, I have always acknowledged this and been critical of the truncated effect they can have on our reading rather than recognizing literature exists on a continuum and our ambition should be to read out and read between and beside different works and texts. And to create more challenging works.
How and ever, I was thrilled to see Malarky nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize today firstly because of the books and writers she sits beside: Anne Fleming, Bill Gaston, Yasuko Thanh and my fellow Biblioasis author CP Boyko and secondly because it’s a regional prize that acknowledges a local literature exists. And thirdly, for the completely obscure reason that it reminded me of Ethel Wilson’s description of Marine Drive and the houses being built there and made me ponder how would she contemplate the subsequent condification that’s happening today. And fourthly, for the inadvertent discovery reading all the nominations that Dan Francis has written a book on the History of Trucking in BC that had until today completely passed me by and now I’m intrigued to discover it.
Here is the National Post story on the BC Book Prize nominations: click on the headline and follow the link in the story to the full listings including aforementioned trucking book.
Anakana Schofield, Bill Gaston and George Bowering are among the authors shortlisted for the 2013 B.C. Book Prizes, it was announced Thursday.
The nominees for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, for the best work of fiction, are: C.P. Boyko for Psychology and Other Stories (Biblioasis), Anne Fleming for Gay Dwarves of America (Pedlar Press), Bill Gaston for The World (Hamish Hamilton Canada, Penguin Group Canada), Anakana Schofield for Malarky (Biblioasis) and Yasuko Thanh for Floating Like the Dead (McClelland & Stewart Ltd.)
Henceforth, I think I shall document all book prize related talk according to the snacks served and the likelihood of inclement weather on the day they are handed out. Also, I shall look for that Marine Drive paragraph I mention in Swamp Angel. I am certain that’s the title that contains it.
We shall now return to the Pineapple Express and car review forums. This last and third day of the Pineapple Express showed according to the video I watched, that the system is coming from a South West subtropical to the right of Hawaii on the map. (That a long way for this volume of rain! Respect!) It shifted to the right on the map. Our figures for rainfall were not too astonishing, but for North & West Vancouver eek. I commend the mud on not giving way.
Two earthquake events up the coast in Masset, Haida Gwaii: 4.6 & 4.2 today to be noted attentively.
March 12, 2013
My son and I have been appreciating the humour that is to be found in car forums. Yesterday we were reading reviews on a particular car and were both in stitches at some of the entries. Car reviews may host some of the finest comedy talent out there. The sheer exasperation, the voice, the descriptions. Not every car review is a storming Norma though. Naturally it depends on the car, how the car has behaved and what it provokes in the driver/writer/reviewer. But it does confirm our emotional relationships with machines thrive! I wonder if you compared entries, in say, a marital discord forum whether they would match up with particular tones in car reviews.
I just performed a quick google — this instant — on the sister topic of marital discord and surprisingly only found a rather Christian cloaked technical type article until I discovered this woman in Florida complaining about her husband’s reluctance to embrace life insurance:
“I swear to GOD, the only reason I wake up and do ANYTHING in my life is because of the responsibility I feel to my family… Otherwise, I’m too f***ing TIRED! If I could lay in bed all day and watch TV, I would. If I died, I would consider it a BREAK!!!! So, if I do die, I don’t want, on my deathbed to think , “What the hell are they going to do without me?”
Compare this voice to our absolute favourite review voice (bar one which I’ll share manana) in the 1995 Ford Contour reviews on Carsurvey.org:
GOD has turned his back on this poor car
Check Engine Light is possessed. Intermittently shuts off and on. The car knows when its gonna get hooked up to diagnostics, so when the mechanic goes to plug in the computer, the check engine light shuts off just before he plugs in. I still have no diagnosis, and I’m embarrassed that this has happened 6 times!
I can’t use the cup holders cause they split, and even if I could use them, I can’t get them out of the center console cause they are jammed.
The timing belt cover design is flawed. I park far away to save myself the embarrassment of first turning on the car. The first 5 minutes of warmup it sounds like I’m popping a 55 gallon drum of popcorn. (the belt hitting the inside of cover)
The airbag light keeps blinking the code (passenger relay malfunction) can’t be reset. This is OK I guess knowing my passenger one day will get rocked in the face by a random airbag deployment.”
March 11, 2013
Bertrand Sinclair in his 1922 Vancouver novel The Hidden Places is so full of emotion for his character Hollister that he chokes him and us, the reader, with it. The novel may be the equiv of a literary earthquake.
Have to share this chunk, which is in fairness by its end an earnestly serious attempt to depict the character’s strife at returning home from the war with facial disfigurement. There is, however, a perplexing line in the middle:
“In the darkness of his room, with all the noisy traffic of a seaport city rumbling under his windows, Hollister lay on his bed and struggled against that terrifying depression which had seized him, that spirtual panic. It was real. It was based upon undeniable reality. He was no more captain of his soul than any man born of woman has ever been when he descends into the dark places. But he knew that he must shake off that feeling, or go mad, or kill himself. One of the three”
Are there men ever not born of women? And if so how do these men make their entrance into this world and navigate being captain of their souls? I’m intrigued. What Sinclair has given us here and admits handily to us is a classic example of the spirtual panic genre or to give it a more contemporary slant: the heaving chesticles genre.
Calm down laddie.
more snips to come! Have also chanced upon another weather snip in my old favourite The Nine O’Clock Gun by Roland Wild.
March 11, 2013
In the latest edition of the NYRB two different reviews by two different writers named Michael open with a confessional I:
Michael Lewis review of Capital by John Lancaster opens:
“When I moved to London for graduate school back in the early 1980’s the city felt as if it existed for just about every purpose other than for people to make money in it.”
Michael Scammell’s review of Douglas Smith’s Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy opens:
“When I was studying Russian at a British army language school in the 1950’s, most of my teachers were Russian emigres who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution.”
In both of these review openings, the writers seem to be asserting some kind of authority on the material they are about to review for us by placing themselves geographically at its source. Why? In both cases, the writers assert they are reminded by those particular days they cite by the books they have read. We don’t care. Really we don’t care. Truly we don’t care what you are reminded off. We especially don’t care when we think about the VIDA pie charts last week. If the NYRB can’t be arsed to assign more reviews to women on the grounds that there aren’t women who have authority on these topics (the chronic excuse), well I don’t consider either of these openings establish authority. They are, in short, confessional guff. I can write confessional guff with ease and thus now find myself qualified to write on both these topics.
March 10, 2013
I’ve finished Mr Parks impatience memoir (Teach us to sit still) and have managed to miss the Leopardi reference in it, which a very good source told me was in there. The descriptions of the meditation retreats did me in, which given the starting point of the memoir is a man being done in by pain, seems form & content & reader appropriate.
I recommend Mr P’s memoir to anyone with or without a prostate, anyone with or without a pain someplace and certainly to those who have no intention of ever going on a meditation retreat (you may find yourself maintaining that position) and finally for those who have realized that every book is improved by a reference to Robert Walser. This one has multiples. Much insight to be gained from reading this book.