Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

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

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.

Ever.

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.

Three generations of incarceration

This morning upon waking I listened to Gary Younge’s Radio 4 documentary Three Generations of Incarceration. (5 more days left to listen) A documentary that tells the story of one family who has had three generations pass through America’s criminal justice system. I’d been waiting for this documentary since I read about it last week.

I like Younge’s approach to radio and how the story unfolded between the movements of the man he was talking to. I think because I enjoyed tracking the urban sounds that surrounded him. But mainly what I admire about Younge is the sense that he’s keenly listening to his subjects. There’s a great deal to be said for gentle curiosity. And on that note I intend to listen to it again.

Radio 4 is running a whole series of programmes on prison and prisoners.

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Valves

BBC Radio 4 long wave, which transmits on the 198 kilohertz frequency, relies on ageing transmitter equipment that uses a pair of the valves – no longer manufactured – to function.

The valves, at Droitwitch in Worcestershire, are so rare that engineers say there are fewer than 10 in the world, and the BBC has been forced to buy up the entire global supply. Each lasts anywhere between one and 10 years, and when one of the last two blows the service will go quiet.

Radio neuro

HM Neuro Celeb radio documentary…

When a 27 year old man known in the text books simply as HM underwent brain surgery for intractable epilepsy in 1953, no one could have known that the outcome would provide the key to unravelling one of the greatest mysteries of the human mind – how we form new memories.

Listen to radio doc here HM – The Man Who Couldn’t Remember