Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

Jane Rule’s novel becomes a great deal less interesting when everyone in it bundles off to live in Galiano Island.  Is it difficult to write about Island life without earnest reverence? Does everyone suddenly get made up once they hop off the ferry?

The book is drawing to a breezy & unfortunate end, that said what’s interesting about the book remains interesting. I continue to have exchanges on the questions that occurred to me and have discovered a few other folk equally curious. The novel (The Young in One Another’s Arms) has prompted me to consider the intersection between fiction and social history and also the intersection of housing, urban landscape (and its development) and literature.  One communication I had with a writer about the book described the prose as “informative” not “evocative” and I found this distinction/description dead on.

I’ve long been curious about this sense of Vancouver as a city being constantly “surrounded by”, dwarfed by mountains, the city as a city being looked at in the reflection of what’s around it rather than what’s in it. We do not live up trees, we do not live in the mountains. We live in the streets and bus seats and libraries and corner shops, laundry rooms, and queues for bureaucracy.

And so onward with the thinking. I will visit the archives and query my wonderings further there.

I continue to contemplate and consider Jane Rule’s novel The Young in Another One’s Arms. (Post note: Actual title is The Young in One Another’s Arms, but I leave the mix up because I like the sounds)  Right now I am struck by questions of whether or not the book could be seen as document of social history. Fiction rarely succeeds as social history it seems, and yet some work succeeds in an almost incidental manner.

The removal of the removed (displaced people) from the house, the tearing down of the house, which I’ve investigated and would correspond sources tell me to an initial period of gentrification in the early 1970’s in the neighbourhood of Kitsilano where the novel is set. The formation of alternative families, the quandary of draft dodgers where they went, how they lived, how they immersed into the city is all here in this novel.

I’ve been struck by the absence in BC fiction I’ve read, of certain, almost overwhelming aspects of where we live (labour, recessions, work, resource based industry, a turbulent labour history and so on) and at this time am busy trying to assess what is in the fiction in order to understand what did not breach the levees or the absence I allude to.

Another thing I contemplate as I read novels from the 1970’s period is the departure or starting point for the women in them. There are two extraordinary remarkings in Jane Rule’s novel that I must detail here on this point, but they’ll be detailed tomorrow in another post. They are simple, almost unremarkable in their mention and yet …. once you get to considering them, oh how they chime or rolling boil.  Manana, manana.