Anakana Schofield – Award Winning Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky


I am presently doing events in the UK:

Tomorrow  30 May: I’ll be reading with Yuri Herrera at Burley Fisher Books,400 Kingsland Road, E8 4AA, London at 7pm.

1 June: Waterstones, Cork, Ireland. 6.30pm I am reading with Lisa McInerney & Pat Cotter.

3 June: Listowel Writers’ Week, Listowel, Ireland with Patrick deWitt 7.30pm.


Would like to sincerely thank Eimear McBride who very generously interviewed me last Thursday at The Book Hive in Norwich. It was one of my favourite events and discussions ever about MARTIN JOHN. Also, thanks to the Greenwich Book Festival this weekend, at which I did a splendid event with Alex Pheby and Andrew Harkinson, moderated by the excellent Susanna Rustin. The tour kicked off in Dublin at the International Literature Festival last Tuesday with a great event with Lucy Caldwell.  Thanks indeed to Selina Guinness, our moderator, for her very close & considered readings of both books. Much gratitude to these festivals & bookshops for inviting me & especially to the engaged and responsive audiences at all these events.

Woo-hoo! Malarky nominated for First Novel Award

Hot off boiling the kettle here …Malarky has been nominated for the First Novel Award. This just in from the Toronto Star report

“ announced the finalists for the 37th Annual First Novel Award Wednesday. This Canadian literary award recognizes the outstanding talent of Canadian novelists who have published their first novel in 2012.”

Click here to learn about all 5 titles nominated including the intriguing People Park by Pasha Malla.

Click here to read the offical news release put out by Amazon at the rising of the sun.

Georgia Straight: Malarky selected as a best book of 2012

This week’s Georgia Straight contained some pretty wild and cheery news.

In the Georgia Straight Best Books of 2012 round up an extraordinary occurrence (by my standards anyway) three different critics chose Malarky as one of their picks in the same article!

Thank you to Brian Lynch, Michael Hingston and Alexander Varty for the thoughtful reflections on Malarky. Much appreciated.

Was also glad to be beside Karolina Waclawiak‘s novel How to Get Into the Twin Palms published by the dynamic Two Dollar Radio and Leanne Shapton’s Swimming Studies, which has to be a serious contribution to what Lidia Yuknavitch (another swimmer: see her Chronology of Water) termed “a literature of the body” during our panel discussion at Wordstock — The Portland Writers Festival.

Read the whole article here

Here are the three extracts:

(By Anakana Schofield. Biblioasis)
In her debut novel, the Vancouver-based writer rolls out a fully realized marvel of a character, one who seems like she’s been there all along, waiting to be written into story form. Our Woman, as she’s named here, belongs to the settled ways of the Irish countryside—until her world is capsized by the hidden sexual lives of her husband and her son. Schofield has fashioned a truly memorable figure, clear as day from the opening pages of this raw, sad, funny book, and yet consistently surprising. (Brian Lynch)

(By Anakana Schofield. Biblioasis)
Great fiction takes risks. That’s why descriptions of a classic and an utter fiasco can sound so similar. And yes, in theory, the debut novel by Vancouver’s Anakana Schofield is far from a sure thing: it’s an obsessive, voice-driven novel about a grieving Irish housewife that runs along irregular timelines and lingers at unusual places. It also never, ever apologizes for itself. More importantly, it all works. Joe Biden may have done more to repopularize the word malarky this year, but Schofield’s electrifying novel will leave a much longer impression.  (Michael Hingston)

(By Anakana Schofield. Biblioasis)
I laughed, I cried, and I’m not kidding. The immensely gifted Anakana Schofield’s vivid study of a middle-aged Irish housewife’s nervous breakdown has a huge heart and a fierce brain; Malarky is, by a wide margin, the most memorable fiction I’ve read this year. Our Woman invents some dubious remedies for her diabetes, not to mention her sense of shame and loss over her husband’s philandering and subsequent death; nine out of 10 doctors would not prescribe fruitcake and sex with strangers. But sometimes cures can take curious form, in life as in this extremely delicious novel. (Alexander Varty)

National Post: Overlooked Canadian favourites 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.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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

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

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.

New collaboration goes live: “Rooms” in Boulderpavement

I am very pleased to share this. In June I was commissioned to write an original flash fiction piece for Boulderpavement I was given the theme dream.  In addtion I opted to collaborate with visual artist Jeremy Isao Speier on the piece.

I wanted the text to be completed or extended or responded to through images. It was a fascinating process.

Yesterday the piece went live and I am thrilled with the result. I was surprised at how lifted I was when I first saw the piece but I think in part it came from the sensation of creating work again and seeing it realize itself and the wider scope that’s possible with collaboration.

To read “Rooms” please visit

I thank Boulderpavement and the Banff Centre Press for this opportunity.

Toronto Star calls Malarky fascinating, absolutely beautiful

Insightful review and perspective on Malarky from Georgie Binks in today’s Toronto Star. Great to have this reflection on the book as it speaks to the inner monologues of everyday folk. This piece about Malarky also deals with the book that was written, rather than speculating on or demanding the one that wasn’t, which is ditto cheering.

Some clips from the review:

“Malarky is a fascinating voyage into the mind of a woman embattled but surviving during and after the deaths of her husband and son, the latter being the true tragedy from which she must recover. The central character of the book, Philomena a.k.a. “Our Woman,” is kind enough to share the running commentary of her life in an Irish patter that could easily mirror the thoughts of many women at mid-life, if in fact, mid-life these days is when the kids have left and the husband has died or departed.

Schofield admits, “I wrote that book unapologetically for and about women. I find the ordinary working class woman fascinating. I like to write about ordinary people who usually don’t get written about.”

“…”What I love about Malarky is the absolutely beautiful, almost lyrical, but very simple turns of phrase Schofield employs. Little truths like her observations that youth is not wasted on the young but that age is wasted on the old or that widows — first considered a novelty — soon become the remnants of the person who is gone.”

Click here to read the entire Toronto Star review of Anakana Schofield’s novel Malarky

Malarky invited to Wordstock Portland Book Festival

I was delighted to hear the news I have been invited to Wordstock the Portland Book Festival in the Fall. I am excited to visit Portland as I’ve never been.

Thank you indeed to Wordstock for the invitation.

Malarky selected for Amazon Best Books of 2012 So Far list in 2 categories

This week or Friday gone, announced it’s Best Books of the Year So Far list and Malarky was selected in 2 categories! Given there are only 10 spots in each category that was a coup.

It was happy days to be listed alongside Tamara Faith Berger’s novel Maidenhead (also in 2 categories) as our books speak to something in between them. Perhaps the assumptions made about women’s sexuality. I read with Tamara in March at VPL (along with Ben Wood whose novel is also listed) and enjoyed her company and our discussions greatly.

San Francisco Chronicle publishes excellent, insightful review praising Malarky

A piece of criticism is required to be an engaging piece of writing in its own right. Increasingly reviews are devoid of ideas and the frames of reference have become painfully narrow, such engagement is only to be found in the longer form essay or critique. 

The San Francisco Chronicle published a review in their Sunday edition (July 3, 2012) that not only strongly praises Malarky but more importantly considers it and considers it coherently. And even more significantly the review, even within the confines of today’s newspaper word counts, manages to contain ideas.

“Malarky” is very much a book about sexuality and sexual frustration, but it is more fundamentally about the blinkers life puts on a person. Smart and absurdly proactive as Our Woman can be, she remains unable to see certain parts of herself or push through the illusions that her marriage has taught her. Schofield brings in a clearly political element when these illusions pertain to her soldier son, yet, throughout, “Malarky” makes a more subtle critique: failing to see past the margins of one’s understandings invites a failure of the imagination that hurts those you love, or attempt to.

Potent and fresh as this is, “Malarky” becomes truly compelling when Our Woman embodies an existential strangeness. In certain moments, we are not so far from Beckett’s Molloy – Our Woman comes close to enlivening not only the political and the personal but also the human.

Click here to read Scott Esposito’s San Francisco Chronicle review.

Malarky, CBC 10 Writers to Watch and ruminations on the dentist’s chaise

I continue to receive lovely messages and responses from readers about Malarky. Thank you very much for them. The poets have been very good to me as well, sending such strong, generous responses and engaging with my novel. Thank you. It is so heartening to read of this engagement.


Thank you to the CBC who today included me in a list of 10 writers to watch. I did chuckle at the word watch since I am perpetually losing my glasses in what amounts to a very small living space and should certainly be watched for my demonstrated ability not to put the folded laundry away and tendency to topple over in public places.

Another thing that struck me was where are the lists of the writers who have stuck around? I may have to compile one.


My dentist also put a “watch” on two of my teeth recently. I was at the dentist this week and had quite a knee wrapping experience. It was cold in the room, see my post on weather blues. The staff are so kind at my dentist, one woman asked: Would you like a blanket? I told her I’d love a blanket and she took off into a cupboard.

She came back and handed me the identical blanket that I had as a baby in 1971 and I happily wrapped it around myself and settled back for the drilling. I have to say, unrelated, but it was one of my better performances in the dentist’s chair. I am an awful, terrified patient, who is fortunate to have found the most patient dentist on this planet.

“Anaesthetic is our friend” he says quietly, talking me through what amounts to one of the most awful parts of dentistry for me that enormous needle powering into my gum. My dentist is so smart. He’s figured out if he talks and offers words I protest less. He literally could be speaking Russian it wouldn’t matter. My poor brain just needs to hear something to blot out the horrible images it manages to conjure in these situations. Very glad the CBC list of writers to watch does not take place in the dentist’s chair.

Largehearted Boy: Book Notes: a musical walk through Malarky

Here is one of the most unique and rewarding forays I have undertaken with Malarky. Thank you to David John Gutowski @ Largehearted Boy for inviting me to participate in his excellent cross-disciplinary Book Notes series:

In the Book Notes series, authors create and discuss a music playlist that relates in some way to their recently published book.

Previous contributors include Bret Easton Ellis, Kate Christensen, Kevin Brockmeier, George Pelecanos, Dana Spiotta, Amy Bloom, David Peace, Myla Goldberg, Heidi Julavits, Hari Kunzru, and many others.

Anakana Schofield’s Malarky is a brilliant debut novel that depicts one woman’s descent into madness with dark humor and an intimate eye for grief and sorrow.

The Montreal Gazette wrote of the book:

“Toeing the delicate line between tragedy and comedy – the former inherent in the bare facts of Our Woman’s life, the latter in her irrepressible voice – Schofield starts at a pitch of inspiration most novels are lucky to reach at any point and remarkably sustains that level all the way through.”


In her own words, here is Anakana Schofield’s Book Notes music playlist for her debut novel, Malarky:

(The playlist has embedded youtube videos of the music )

Profile in today’s National Post

In today’s National Post Books there’s a profile on me: Thank you to Mark Medley who wrote such a lively piece.

Pluck of the Irish: Anakana Schofield’s debut is one of the season’s best reads

When Anakana Schofield was 24 years old, she got braces. A recent theatre school graduate, the aspiring actress coped with a mouthful of metal by picking up a video camera and recording the experience. The resulting half-hour documentary, Bracism, aired on RTE.

“It was like reality TV, way, way before there was actually a thing,” recalls Schofield, now 41, during an interview in a Toronto café last month. “For years afterwards, I’d be in the bank, or I’d be on the train, and somebody would say, ‘I saw your program on the telly! You’re the girl that made the one about the teeth!’

“I’m very interested in documentary,” she continues. “I’m interested in social anthropology as well. Fiction, for me, is [a] departure … I’m interested in making s–t up, basically, and this is the place to do it.”

Malarky, Schofield’s wonderfully deranged debut novel, marries her interests in realism and invention with great results. It tells the story of “Our Woman,” also known as Philomena, an aging farmer’s wife who is slowly coming apart at the seams. The simple life she leads in County Mayo, Ireland, is first threatened then shattered by myriad events: her son’s homosexuality, her husband’s philandering ways, her own sexual awakening, and, eventually, the deaths of both her son and husband.

“From a marketing department’s point of view, this is not a dream book,” she deadpans. Yet, “I have great faith in readers,” she adds. “I’m interested in what the novel can become. We know what it can be — the linear, chronological. As a reader I’m ambitious. And I want to see new things.”

To read the entire profile click here 

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