Anakana Schofield – Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

November 20, 2012

Long-left leaves

I apologize for the interruption or hiatus in postings. I have some catching up to do because I’ve been on the road so much this season.

The past two days have seen quite a weather event. I’ll call it a single event because there was very little interruption. Rain, relentless, plunging rain — there was a small river running down the back alley this morning. And wind. 16,000 people had their power knocked out by the high wind in spots like Steveston, Southern Vancouver Island, Sunshine Coast etc.

This evening though, the rain took a pause and there was a hint of fog out there when I went for a wander. It was almost a blue fog. I have decided it was a Christmas fog since there was only a hint of it and since we’re technically no where near Christmas.

The leaves are drowned to a mush, they look like long-left breakfast cereal.

If you are feeling down during the winter season please check out the In Our Time BBC Radio 4 episode I posted below and convene with Mr Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy for company and comfort. I also recommend hot water bottle, perhaps some oolong tea and the softest blanket you can find to curl up with.

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November 20, 2012

Robert Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholy

Melvyn Bragg and his guests discuss Robert Burton’s masterpiece The Anatomy of Melancholy.

In 1621 the priest and scholar Robert Burton published a book quite unlike any other. The Anatomy of Melancholy brings together almost two thousand years of scholarship, from Ancient Greek philosophy to seventeenth-century medicine. Melancholy, a condition believed to be caused by an imbalance of the body’s four humours, was characterised by despondency, depression and inactivity. Burton himself suffered from it, and resolved to compile an authoritative work of scholarship on the malady, drawing on all relevant sources.

Click here to listen to the programme

Click here to read The Anatomy of Melancholy

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October 30, 2012

Malarky tour 2012 and major weather events

I have been on the road with Malarky on and off since Sept. 23 when I began at the Brooklyn Book Festival followed by Ontario (Trent, Peterborough), THIN AIR Winnipeg International Writers Festival, Victoria Writers Festival, Wordstock Portland Writers Festival, Vancouver Writers Fest and I am just returned from the marvellous experience that is IFOA in Toronto.

Thank you to all those festivals who invited me, to the audiences and many readers I met, writers I read with and the staff and volunteers who work so hard at these festivals and my publisher Biblioasis for their stellar efforts on behalf of Malarky. I also thank the Canada Council for the Arts, the Writers Union and the BC Arts Council for support.

Obviously I have been greviously remiss with my weather reports and must take a big inhale and apologize for this. It is not that I haven’t been observing for I have, just have not quite managed to nail it onto the screen.

Yesterday’s weather events in New Jersey and New York give great pause. The ferocity. The build and how the weather pattern increased its speed on approach, thus making the predication even more challenging. One of the descriptions that has stayed with me from relatives in the middle of it was of the windows bending. The windows being bent (inwards I assume) from the power of the wind. And how fire and water co-existed throughout. Houses on fire in the Rockaways that were surrounded by water on all sides was another description I caught.

I send good thoughts and courage to those involved in recovery efforts and getting the lights turned back on. I am always impressed by the spirit of New Yorkers and was doubly impressed by noting friends who woke this morning there and immediately turned their thoughts and attention to how they might join volunteer efforts today in that city.

Over the next weeks I will catch up on some postings and thoughts about my experience on the road.

Stay warm and safe and thank you again.

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October 12, 2012

Joe Biden endorses Malarky!

Tonight in the Vice Presidential debate we heard Joe Biden indicate the influence of my novel Malarky on him.
Behind every Vice-President is an episodic novel.

Buy the novel that inspired American politics ….

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October 7, 2012

Toronto Review of Books interview

Kelli Deeth interviewed me for the Toronto Review of Books and I can say it’s one of my favourite interviews. Her questions on Malarky were carefully thought out and it’s clear arose from a very close reading of the novel. I was also grateful for her examination of who is absent from the novel … i.e. the daughters it’s the first time perhaps I’ve been asked about this. It reminds me again and again of how powerful a careful reading and excavation on any book can be and why, in my opinion, there’s often more power in being a reader than a writer.  I wish there was as much competition and desire to be a reader as there is to be a writer these days. Imagine if all job interviews commenced with the inquiry: so tell me what you are reading or what you have read?

I digress. Here’s a clip from Kelli Deeth’s interview and a link to the whole text.


9. I read that you spent ten years writing this book. What kept you going?

…Reading kept me going. It is what matters most. A single moment in publishing does not galvanize me as much as considering the interrelationship between many moments and how they speak to each other.

Finally I have an insatiable appetite for completely redundant information, so that keeps me very occupied and sustained – kinda like constant mental porridge.

Read Kelli Deeth’s Interview with Anakana Schofield here


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October 3, 2012

Newsday note Malarky reading event in NY as a “must see”

Thanks to Wendy Smith and Newsday who cited my event with Amy Sohn and Joshua Henkin at the Brooklyn Book Festival in their list of 5 Must Sees at the 7th Annual Event in this recent article

That made for a lovely, warm welcome to Brooklyn last weekend. Photos and full report of extraordinary festival to follow shortly. Certainly a highlight of my year! Such admiration for Johnny Temple and the team of staff and volunteers who pull off this amazing festival. I wish every city could enjoy such a celebration of literature.

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October 3, 2012

The book that ruined my life: Anakana Schofield

The Georgia Straight recently asked me the following question in relation to my appearence on Sunday Sept 29th at The Word on the Street 2012 : Which book changed your life?

Below was my response, published on their website and now here.

Since March 15, when I published a novel, I have been asked multiple times in interviews: which book changed your life?

If honest, I have not had a Pentecostal-change-of-my-life moment as a result of reading any book.


The things that changed my life were my father dying one night in 1977, my son being born in 1999, getting a council flat or its equivalent in Vancouver, and a diagnosis of reflux in my left kidney.

It occurs to me that I have not considered the original question in broad enough terms. Which book has ruined my life?

BBC Radio 4 provides the answer. Last Thursday, not long after the above inquiry yet again ding-donged into my email (“Tell us about the book or author that changed your life”), I came upon a serialization of Geoffrey Household’s Rogue Male, Episode 5 of which was streaming live.

Rogue Male was a novel I studied and the only novel I have any memory of studying (do I need to check into a clinic?) for O-level English 25 years ago. It was a profound experience. We had to read it aloud. I was never ever asked to read aloud because I desperately wanted to read aloud. I had to suffer the most awful rendition of this novel aloud, which I duly tackled by reading the entire novel ahead silently. Chapters ahead, I’d read the whole book at my desk, while everyone else was still plodding through early chapters aloud. It was a racehorse reading of Rogue Male.

Mr. Household’s novel was a visceral experience. I read a novel about a man who lived under the ground like a mole. Just because. It didn’t matter why he lived under there. I was only captivated by the idea that people could live underground and therefore, obviously, did live underground. Right now. All around me. And because there was an authoritative male voice telling me. I too could go there.

With hindsight, perhaps the central heating wasn’t very good in our house because I can’t understand why I wanted, in the words of the Jam, to be Going Underground. I was an overly imaginative adolescent likely damaged by enforced listening to BBC Radio 2.

In anticipation of going back underground with Radio 4 last week, I searched up the novel online and felt a retroactive kick to the kidney to learn the book was a spy thriller! A classic spy thriller! Episode 5 delivered itself along with a sentence describing a man holding sight of another man in a crossfire.

There was no man killing any other man in the novel I read at that school desk. There was no spy on the run. There was just a man who wanted to live underground for a reason that made no impression on me, because I was too impressed by the concept you could live down there. Beneath Clarks Shoes. I was impaled on that image. Household could say whatever he wanted after that. I was gone. Underground.

Twenty-five years after the fact I learn that my most visceral literary influence may explain why I have never been able to imagine owning a home and flunked science.

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September 12, 2012

Direction & NW review in National Post

Saturday gone I reviewed Zadie Smith’s new novel NW in the National Post.

You can read my review here. I have plenty more to say on this book, but the review is a start.

I noticed in Adam Mars-Jones Observer review of NW how he reads the novel backwards out from, against and back to the modernists. Whilst he offers other insights early in his review worth heeding and considering this reading the book backwards seems odd to me. Why didn’t he consider what the book might be writing toward? What and where it might be writing into? I really do not understand reviewers who apply such rigid reasonings to literature. I am all for examining the continuum, but one doesn’t have to chronically only look over the shoulder you can also look left and right, step off the kerb and sail through the present traffic lights .. unanchored.

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September 12, 2012

The Three Rs: Anakana Schofield

Slightly Bookist blogger and literary critic JC Sutcliffe interviewed me for her fun and contemplative Three R’s feature.

Here’s a snip with the link to the full interview questions below.

“I think of literature on a continuum, a line, I want to add to it, to reread, to dart here and there. I can appreciate a book for a single paragraph if I contemplate where that paragraph led from or leads too in another parallel work or where else it might lead me. I am not always reading for the “whole”.”


The Three Rs: Anakana Schofield.

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September 12, 2012

Edmonton Journal: Another big shout out for Malarky

In a column called Let’s Celebrate Great Writing in Saturday’s Edmonton Journal Michael Hingston, the paper’s new book columnist, gave this uplifting and generous shout out to Malarky:

“The annual season of CanLit second-guessing spoke to an urge that’s near and dear to my heart: the urge to make fun of dumb things. But then I started thinking about the best Canadian novel I’ve read this year, Anakana Schofield’s Malarky — and which, if left to some inattentive marketing person, could’ve easily been lost in a pile of books marked drab and introspective. What a mistake that would’ve been.”

Entire column is here.

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September 11, 2012


In recent days I was thinking about the concept of distance. Today I listened to an interview with Philip Glass in which he remarked that an opera usually is 8 to 10 years behind in terms of its first staging. So there will be a staging of an opera and then 8-10 years may pass before it’s restaged or picked up upon. I found this lag or distance curious and wondered which other art forms the same might be applied or uncovered? Also where does this put the composer in relation to the work if the world’s catching up after the fact. Is she/he essentially chronically dystopic? (or peri-lunar?)

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September 9, 2012

“The Scotiabank Giller longlist: fine, but Malarky is missing” Montreal Gazette

Oh my. This is a very sweet sentiment. Thank you to Ian McGillis of the Montreal Gazette. Book Prize shortlists however are akin to the likelihood of nabbing a seat on the Space Shuttle, hence I have/had/will always have zero expectations.

Also, Book Prize culture usually insists on single conversations about single books. I am more concerned with the continuum and Malarky being in conversation with other books (as she is within her text) and/or art forms for that matter. The poets are reading her, I hope some day maybe Malarky will be taught and new understandings and interrogations can emerge.

I commend Mr McGillis for his column though because I have felt similiarly impassioned about the lack of people reading Helen Potrebenko’s novel Taxi! I think his column could be the heartiest defence I receive in this lifetime!

Now, though, for my big beef: Where on earth is Anakana Schofield’s Malarky? The reception this years-in-gestation debut novel got last spring, both word-of-mouth and in the media, seemed to mark a rare case of a small-press literary novel getting widespread attention purely on the basis of its merits. There was no particular “hook” to this Ireland-set story of a (maybe) mad housewife other than its being so plainly, inarguably good; on a sentence-by-sentence level, and in its flawlessly sustained voice, it grabbed me as few novels have in recent years. Yes, I know, these things are subjective, but I’m frankly baffled by its exclusion. If it doesn’t make the GG list I’ll start to wonder if there’s something in the water, either mine or everyone else’s.

Read the whole column here

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September 9, 2012

Interview in Celtic Life International

Celtic Life International, a magazine about which I know virtually nothing, kindly interviewed me recently and the interview is up on their site now. It will appear along with a review of Malarky in the Fall edition of their magazine.

I’ll excerpt two questions from the interview here and you can read the entire thing in a link at the end should you wish.

What was the most challenging aspect of the process?
Finding the right form. My form. Breaking with the conventional forms of linear, chronological or and past/present shifts in narrative. I wanted to write a novel that challenged. I am ambitious for the novel as a reader and I want to contribute to that as a writer. I created a rotating point of view that would give the reader a whole woman and I employed devices such as the use of Our Woman, so the reader would feel some possession over her. I also wanted a singular focus on Philomena that would be unremitting in its attention to one ordinary woman. It was very demanding. In the novel I also address the effect that grief has on time and memory; in order to replicate this it was necessary to a fragmented approach. But the hardest part in some ways was the sadness of her situation. I became very attached to Philomena. I still feel weepy if I think of her at that moment in the shop when she breaks down or even stuck out on the mountain when she falls over. Though that part of the narrative is fairly ripe with humour.

What are your thoughts on Canadian literature today?

We are living in an exciting time for Canadian literature. But we need to be mindful to push the boundaries of the novel and not just settle for the middle-brow.  We also need to pay much more attention as readers to our poetry. Some of the most dynamic work in the country is taking place in poetic forms. Likewise critical writing needs our attention both as writers and readers.

To read the entire Celtic Life piece click here

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September 9, 2012

The Quarterly Conversation review recursive Malarky

Wonderful, interrogative critique of Malarky in lastest edition of The Quarterly Conversation. Thanks to Christiane Craig for going a few rounds and octaves with Malarky.

“Perhaps the most surprising moment of Anakana Schofield’s Malarky: “Our Woman’s brain ached as though fingers were separating it inside her head.” Indeed, Malarky is nothing if not a very difficult, albeit remarkable, little “brain” and to read it is to separate it with fingers. The novel is composed of twenty “episodes,” the muddled recollections of “Our Woman,” an Irish farmer’s wife on the threshold of old age, with two featureless daughters and a very dear gay son, Jimmy, who is her favorite person. ”

Read the entire piece here

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September 4, 2012

The Massive Cabbage Visit

Yesterday a friend emailed with the words “I will bring you a cabbage…”

It was an offer way too tempting to resist, despite the slight John the Baptist vibe to it. Do not fear JTB. And If you want to get the world talking: mention Cabbage. (Henceforth capitalized due to its powerful camaraderie) Before the Cabbage arrived I had seven different ideas from social medja of what to do with it. At 3.30pm it landed. On my blue kitchen table. It is a massive Cabbage. At 6pm we ate some of it, very tasty. It remains a massive Cabbage There’s so much left it could make another 45 dinners.

If anyone ever says I will bring you a Cabbage, encourage them to do so. This Cabbage was grown in Burnaby. Thank you Helen for the Cabbage.

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September 2, 2012

CWILA Interview on Criticism

Canadian Women in the Literary Arts interviewed me on the topic of criticism. Thank you to Gillian Jerome for her thoughtful questions.

You can read the interview here and I look forward to hearing responses to the questions I posed at the end about the history of critique in Canada and whether there’s any correlation in the increase in creative writing programs and the decrease in literary criticism. (if in fact there is a decrease, I personally think there is but could stand corrected).


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September 1, 2012

Weather wonderer: nippy note

I have been quite distracted from my weather wondering, but this evening I noted a new nippyness to the evening temperature when I went out for an impromtu later evening run. It gave me a sense of impending Fall and all that it brings. I was not unhappy to remember or think about it. I love detecting the seasons and Autumn/Fall is my favourite season.

Before that I have to put the canning pan to work and can some peaches.

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September 1, 2012

Malarky on tour Fall 2012 — part 1

Pretty soon I will be gearing up to attend a number of Writers Festivals which I am very fortunate to have been invited to this Autumn/Fall season. At these festivals I will be reading from Malarky and also participating in various panel events.

I begin at the Brooklyn Book Festival on September 23, 2012 in New York. Here’s a link to the incredible programming called the Book End events. These are all free events taking place the week leading up to the festival and include 50 events.

These Book End events are in addition to the actual festival which takes place on Sunday 23, 2012 and will feature 280 authors and 104 panels. I am thrilled to be included in such an ambitious event and wish every city could enjoy the same. What I love about this particular festival is the events are for the most part all free.

The festival events will be uploaded on Sept. 4, 2012, so I shall  post again and offer the link to them.


After Brooklyn I move to Ontario where I’ll be reading for certain at the University of Trent reading series and possibly in Ottawa. (I will also return to Toronto for the IFOA (Harbourfront) Festival in late October.) My next stop after Ontario is Winnipeg’s Writers Festival THIN AIR  I couldn’t be more excited as Winnipeg has a long labour history (including general strike re-enactments) so must put my research clogs on and be sure to take in some of the museums or such before I depart. I heard word of a train museum so must look it up. THIN AIR have already uploaded the list of my events with details. Click here to read. I will be reading with Daniel Allen Cox, (a Montreal writer I believe) and Missy Marston.

I return to Vancouver to appear at the Word On The Street, which is something of a homecoming for me as the first year I lived in Vancouver I performed an extract from my play at that very festival. I’ll be reading in the Canada Writes Tent on the Sunday around 12.20pm. (Link to follow)

In advance I thank all the volunteers and committees and staff who make these festivals possible for their labour and for generously inviting me to participate. Merci, merci. And my publisher Biblioasis for their support and The University of Trent for hosting me in their reading series.


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August 25, 2012

Malarky on Cortes

Thanks a million to everyone who came out last Sunday for the reading event at Mansons. It was so much fun reading outdoors, beside the tree swing to such a warm response.

I especially enjoyed the questions and discussion including Liz Magor’s (Visual Artist) incredible take on my book. I wish I could have transcribed what she said about subjectivity. I was also so happy to see many familiar Cortes and Refuge Cove faces, people whose company I’ve delighted in over the years of making annual summer journeys up to Cortes.

A million and a half thanks to Suzu for organizing the event, Marnie’s Books for selling and stocking Malarky.

Also nice to meet writers Ruth Ozeki and Dennison Smith both of whom have new novels coming out in Spring 2013 which I look forward to reading.

Pics to follow.

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August 16, 2012

Georges Perec’s Work-table

Last night I was reading (slowly) Georges Perec’s Notes Concerning the Objects that are on my Work-table. Even though the objects that Perec reports on are static, I was most struck by the movement in his piece.

When I arrived at this paragraph it was like putting my thumb beneath a granite paperweight.  It sat like a big stone, the paragraph, and I could not argue with it.

“Thus a certain history of my tastes (their permanence, their evolution, their phases) will come to be inscribed in this project. More precisely, it will be, once again, a way of marking out my space, a somewhat oblique approach to my daily practice, a way of talking about my work, about my history and my preoccupations, an attempt to grasp something pertaining to my experience, not at the level of its remote reflections, but at the very point where it emerges.”

(Species of Spaces and Other Pieces Georges Perec translated by John Sturrock Penguin Books.)

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