Anakana Schofield – Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

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.

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 ….

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.

“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

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.


Quill & Quire front cover interview is live

This week the cover story interview I did for June’s Quill and Quire became available online.  Thank you to Q&Q for showing such faith in me and to Cheri Hanson for such a thoughtful article. Click on the photo below to read it.


Golden Thursday

Thursday was a fantastic day. Katie Taylor took the Olympic gold medal in Women’s Boxing for Ireland and Seán Bán Breathnach expressed it like no other. Invoking the poets and presidents. Go hiontach ar fad!

The same day I learned I was on P22 of the Irish Echo talking about Malarky — a great day. Very special. I grew up on diaspora newspapers and the Readers Digest. (The Readers Digest in the US also wrote a lovely review of Malarky) Some years ago I traveled to the NYPL to look up the Irish Echo from 1963 specifically to read some community listings in the back of it. Why did I go that far? Because the paper was not available on microfiche or obtainable so if I wanted to see it, I had to go to NY. So it’s lovely to think that things have come the full circle. There’s something very Gertrude Stein about circles. More of them please!

I leave it to SBB.



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.

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 

Malarky Little Star miracle

What an incredible joy and privilege today to sit alongside the work of these extraordinary writers and poets featured on the website/blog of Little Star Journal, who have extracted a chunk of Malarky today and had this reckoning on it:

“Move over Molly Bloom, Anakana Schofield has mastered the hundreds of voices that make up one person, and the negotiations, confusions, and occasional consolations that transpire among them. Her story of an extraordinary/ordinary mother and how she lost her beloved son is a journey into the heart of love and the fragile bonds of the self.”

The gesture behind the establishment and ongoing work of Little Star is a firm nod to the importance of the continuum in literature and the moments behind us and ahead of us and hidden from us therein: especially the moments in translation that we so often foolishly ignore.

Malarky is a book concerned with moments. I think all writers and readers have their moments with a book. Sometimes they can be hard or disappointing or challenging. I certainly had many of those over the past decade.  Today is one of my happiest moments.

To read click A miracle from Anakana Schofield

Under the weather

Oh glory, oh grief how we are challenged by our current weather! It is so ridiculously dark outside today and grim that I must insist to myself there’s something unbeknownst to discover from it. It’s like a set of bricks on the eyelids from indoors, just misery inducing.

To wit, in the spirit of Our Woman, I shall not be sunk and shall up and out into it rather than remain surly in retreat.

I have daily reports of similar weather elsewhere. I was only remarking yesterday to a correspondent on the incredible power of the weather to do our heads in. I maintain tho’ it needs to be embraced, even tho’ I am not a great example of such today.

Flare Magazine select Malarky as one of their 5 Summer Hot Picks

Thank you so much to Flare Magazine who selected Malarky as one of their 5 Summer Hot Picks.

You’ll note they selected it alongside 50 Shades of Six Million Copies. I am fairly confident that my dubious sex in Malarky is far more satisfying for women readers and I welcome all 6 Million of them to read Malarky as soon as possible and then dispute this assertion in the comments section below. I shall happily atone once the millions report back.



Quill & Quire June 2012

Irish Voice & Irish Central review Malarky as “most distinctive novel of its kind in a decade.”

Thank you to Cahir O’Doherty who reviewed Malarky over at Irish Central and in print in the Irish Voice: (click on the extract below to read the whole review). I am glad he made the point about working class Irish female eccentrics, I painfully felt their absence from literature and hence wrote (after considerable struggle) Malarky.

Anakana Schofield: Sledging Sentences

Today over at the Afterword (National Post Book Blog) is my final post as Guest Editor. Click on the extract below to read the whole piece.

I have recently commenced learning to play sledge hockey and am curious to see whether this additional sport in my sporting arsenal will influence my prose.

Several writers come to mind for whom sport plays or played a significant part in their lives: Angie Abdou about to run from Montreal to New York, Michael Collins and his arctic marathon running, Haruki Murakami and what he knows about running, Albert Camus and his goalkeeping, George Bowering and baseball, Helen Potrebenko and her gold medal win at the Senior Games for softball, Lori Emerson e-lit expert and competitive amateur cyclist. (Expand this list by all means in the comments section.)

My other weekly sporting indulgence is adult gymnastics (I should admit to a stagnant level of progress over the past two years and a great deal of chatting). I had not practised gymnastics for 25 years when I recommenced the sport on a Wednesday night several years ago. But as a child it was the single most important thing I did.

I returned to it because I considered that within it lay the foundations of my beginnings as a writer. The repetition, the lines, the discipline, the pain and despair. I think I returned because I couldn’t find that same satisfaction in any other form of exercise and was equally frustrated and dwindling on the page.

Anakana Schofield: Mobile Reading

My third blog as guest editor this week of the Afterword, the National Post books blog. (Click on text to read the entire piece)

Many of us visit places in literature that we may never set foot in. I have a strange habit of visiting literature as I set my foot down. Walking and reading. Initially I had some problems with my inner ear and was advised to repeatedly do the things that made me dizzy in order to retrain my brain.

I was an occasional walker and reader, however with this inner ear problem it now made me dizzy, thus I took up long walks with a book in hand and copious amounts of vacuuming (which also made me dizzy).

Once my inner ear generously righted itself, I found another handy employment for the combined art of walking and reading. I did not own a car and had a small child to move around. The bus routes did not always suit us, nor did the shelling out for transit. He loved stories and I knew I could easily walk him five or ten or thirty blocks without protest if I read to him. Hence we crossed Vancouver neighbourhoods to the dulcet tones of six of Arthur Ransome’s sailing novels and hiked up and down to the park reading every volume of Le Petit Nicolas.


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