Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

Ringing the nitwit knitter

At 2.53am I convened once again with Denis Donoghue’s The Practice of Reading book and chapitre 2 where Denis scuba dives into “theory”. If you have insomnia, wrestling Denis is a productive solution!


“Theory is chiefly interested in spinning larger and larger webs of its own vocabulary” (This is from the paragraph that begins “The main arguments we hear against theory …” on p22)

Then consider reading the above sentence at 2.53am. Add to that sentence several pages of impressive rumination.  Recently I’ve been considering how stunting “theory” and”theory dependence” can be and observing how people latch onto three buzzwords or two names and reference and re-reference them tirelessly and you rarely hear any of their own ideas. Rather than departure points, the references become bus stops with no buses, just poles that are banged over and over with the back of a pan.  It’s akin to watching someone lick the same piece of wood over and over again. Yes they never get any splinters in their tongue … but the listener ends up hearing the first sound of whatever their doctrine begins with and becomes weary-eared. There’s a hiding behind references and doctrines that obscures how the actual texts speak to and from (and onward, backward, sidewards) each other. Theory leaves so little room for noticing.

It makes me wonder if the way we are “instructed” on what to read could be part of it. Systematic reading rather than curiosity reading. I’m convinced there needs to be much more discourse on reading out and bouncing about with and within reading. But this could be because no one has ever told me what to read since I was in secondary school. My reading has always been self-determined and I practice a hoarders or collage approach to reading. I have something of an aversion to the sequential. I think in paragraphs rather sentences.


I have had another major knitting calamity. The jumper I am trying to knit is the size of an elephant despite having the correct number of stitches and following the pattern. I do not know why I am so unsuited to knitting and why the Sellafield effect keeps occurring. It’s like being devoted to a religion and receiving constant telegrams from the source of your worship “I do not exist, cease and desist Dumbo.”


Last night at gymnastics I learned a new move on the rings with a name this morning I cannot pronounce or remember. Unfortunately I appear to have also left my right shoulder and left armpit behind on said rings.

The consolation is the memory of this incredibly eccentric young Chinese woman break dancer, who jumps up and down on the spot, talks to herself in an excitable tone  and then bombs at a crash mat to do a front somersault, except she refuses to use her arms, holds her fists down like two chicken wings and screams blue murder as she turns over in the air while we watch her and her poor neck narrowly escape an ambulance. I have seriously not met anyone as wonderfully eccentric in about 20 years, who wasn’t carrying a bucket in Rural Mayo.

Next Weds promised chilly spell may be a bust! The figures are being revised upwards! I still have my eye on the 16th -20th for an arctic blast.

There was a smidgen of sleety rain (flakes size of pin pricks)  briefly last night. I caught sight of them in the headlights of a Honda. The forecast became fog overnight. We’ve been stuck at 3 degrees, a bit like something that fails to cook inside the low oven temperature.

A non-budging weather event noted.


Yesterday I gave up on the Irish budget. The sight of Michael Noonan nodding it out sent me fleeing to Denis Donoghue.

Each day I go to slow-cooking battle with Denis and it’s very satisfying. Yesterday we were hand wrestling over the imagination.  I was with him, but do wonder Denis — what about what’s absent in literature? What about what’s missing? And what about the readers who go looking for what’s missing and wonder about it? Where are you on appetite and the unmet appetite say?


Reading Malarky and paragraphing

A couple of Fridays ago I was invited by Michael Turner to read with him (He read from No Apologies, Gilbert’s BC Monthly, Gerry Creede and a poem by Sharon Thesen in Writing magazine) at People’s Co-op Bookstore. The reading series (organized by Rolf Maurer) intends for writers to read from work other than their own, or from their unpublished work. It’s a fresh and enticing approach.

I indulged in some “paragraphing”, selecting mainly single paragraphs from different Vancouver novels and reading them beside each other, sometimes to amplify each other or to respond to one another.  I was interested in the oppositions of emotions or perspectives that results from such. It’s something I’d like to do much more. It’s also something I’ve done/collected by accident and, often, it’s humour that draws me to a specific paragraph.

I chose to read also from Episode 6 of Malarky, my forthcoming novel (April 2012). I deliberately chose one of the most fragmented parts of the book, a section that would not necessarily lend itself so well to a more standard literary reading because the paragraphs within it respond to each other. The episode contains my favourite line in the entire book: “See how I went back and forth?” Once you’ve read the book that line should explain itself.

In that context it has been useful to convene with Denis Donoghue’s literary reckoning since he studied music and literature and music and rhythm feature keenly in the first chapter of his book.

Rhythm became vital to Malarky as I edited it. I recall vividly being at Helen Potrebenko’s for dinner & Crokinole and leaving the room to sit in her study and work on editing my book and having to read it aloud and nearly beat it into the table with my hand. I could hear the crokinole pieces clatter into the board from the other room. I was slightly sad to miss the game, but it had to be done. God Bless Helen for all she did to help me realize this book.

Back to the starting point, the reading — it was one of my most favourite readings and one of my favourite women & writer’s Renee Rodin whispered in my ear that Malarky was “delicious” as I skedaddled off to collect my son.  Joy!

Battling Denis

Early morning with Denis Donoghue’s bewk. I don’t entirely agree with him, (I’m more partial to social history than Denis maybe) but admire his questioning and hungry, battling through the nettles rather than admiring the swans, mind. Rather a joy at 5am with the current cold, sunny spell out the window.

The small male is a very early riser these days.  This morning he remarked of our neighbours across the street “Spotted… two more insomniacs, one making breakfast.”


Practicing Glenda

An apparently forgotten Glenda Jackson film from 1968 Negatives (found under Vintage Gothic Horror Babes channel, er wha?)

The film or the parts I’ve watched anyway has a slighty odd preoccupation with a furniture shop. (A whole new genre of film: dads and furniture shops?).

Anyway it’s all quite thundering high octave, as have the past few days been for several people I know and who impress me with their fortitude.


I am reading Denis Donoghue’s The Practice of Reading and find it quite probing and agreeable thus far. A treat to be reading about reading. Especially after a busy year of “necessary” reading, it’s lovely to have some breathable reading space.