Anakana Schofield – Author of Bina, Martin John and Malarky

Anakana Schofield: Reading Out

Here is my second blog  as guest editor of Afterword the National Post books blog. (Click the extract to read the whole piece)


I’ve been thinking an awful lot about reading lately and specifically about the ways in which we can read and the forms of reading that newer technology affords us.

We are living at a time when access to and the variety of literature has never been so immediate for many of us. (To gain an understanding of what it is like not to have access to literature see Doris Lessing’s 2007 Nobel lecture, “On Not Winning the Nobel Prize.”)

I have long possessed an innate and unpredictable curiosity which has resulted in either a peripatetic or patchy approach (depending on your point of view) to reading. Increasingly I see reading (when a text engages me) as a collage that includes not just the current book itself but what comes through this work from previous readings of other books and where may I read out from this work, or back to this work.

The access facilitated by technology allows us a wider immediacy in our reading. We can read books beside each other or between each other. We can read them for a paragraph or we can read them for the long exhale. This affords us much more of a sense of a continuum with and of our literature, and this is especially important when considering a local or a national literature.

What came before, what’s coming now and what has yet to come, and how all of these things sit beside each other or whether they do or not, is (for me) a salient thinking and departure point.

Guest Editor National Post Afterword: Feeling Tired

All this week I have been guest editing Afterword the National Post book blog.

My first piece published on Monday was titled Feeling Tired: (click on the extract to read the entire piece)

When I re-read my novel Malarky I see that for all the sex and sadness in it, it really is a personal plea to be better at baking and to feel less tired.

The main character in Malarky — “Our Woman” — does not feel as tired as I do. She is a great deal perkier. If I try to think of a novel with a character as tired as I feel, I draw a blank. The best I can come up with is Laura Hillenbrand’s incredible New Yorker essay depicting her life with chronic fatigue.

Tiredness is a strange old mist. So is sleep deprivation. Even more puzzling is insomnia, given it strikes when you are, well, already tired.

Malarky lands in Ontario

Biblioasis launched Malarky in Toronto at the Dora Keogh on Tuesday night. It was a great turn out and a lively, welcoming audience. Thank you to everyone who joined us and to Ben McNally and John Maxwell for hosting us at the Dora. It was lovely to meet you all.

Yesterday I had a splendid time doing two readings and different branches of the Toronto Public Library as part of their Eh Reading Series. I enjoyed the exchanges with both audiences and am grateful to librarians Valentina at Northern District library and Muriel at North York library for hosting my readings and providing such great support to me during them. Also thanks to Sheila the bookseller who attended both events so enthusiastically.

I am en route to Windsor where I’ll launch Malarky tonight at the Phog Lounge and will be live on the CBC Windsor for a radio interview early this evening.


The weather in Ontario was suitably varied and surprising since I know nothing about the weather there. It was very warm and yesterday there was an interlude of brief rapid rain, while last night it was nippy and I had to bundle up a tad.  I had visions of it still being winter in Toronto and am glad that my partner told me not to pack my arctic parka!

I loved the city of Toronto, the brief parts I saw of it and am looking forward to my return in the fall and hope for more opportunites to explore the city. In the meantime I shall hunt for local literature and learn more about it.

Malarky Guelph Launch and radio interview

Tomorrow, Monday May 14, 2012 at 7pm at the Bookshelf in Guelph Ontario I will be reading from Malarky, along with poets Kim Jernigan, Alex Boyd and Argentinian writer Liliana Heker.

Last Thursday I spoke to Dan Evans on the Books for Breakfast radio show: you can hear the interview here (it is in the last 15 mins of the programme. It was a lively and engaging interview, which I very much enjoyed.

Open Book Ontario May contribution

This month I was one of 9 writers, who contributed to a blog posting on the question of how reading influences our own fiction over at Open Book Ontario.

Here’s my contribution: click on it to read the entire blog and all the contributions.

How does reading other writers of fiction inform your work?

The act of reading is more important to me than the act of writing. Reading fiction is central to my daily literary-vascular system, if you like, providing the nutrients that feed my chronic percolation and interrogation. Though reading criticism and non-fiction are also part of my brew.

I wish there was a machine, like the one that measures earthquakes, one could attach to each ear lobe which as you read would produce a graph that recorded where in the brain the words had nestled. Then in turn, when you wrote the same ear probe would record and transcribe which area of the brain was being drawn on. Until that time, I can but speculate. I speculate the reading of poetry, fiction, criticism, and non-fiction all equally inform my work. The combination of ingesting all four satisfies my primary need for departure points.

I’m always after departure points: wondering, wandering and churning. I have a hearty appetite for what many might consider redundant information! If my curiosity is piqued in a particular title/writer or topic or fleeting notion I will high tail it to a bookshop or library (in the dark if necessary) to find the work, right now, as in 5 minutes ago.

As a writer and a reader I’m happy to paddle with uncertainty. I’m constantly perplexed and puzzled and questioning. Departure points come in all kinds of forms, thus they aren’t necessarily delivered by being satisfied. Dissatisfaction can be a great springboard.

When we read for the moment or the paragraph, rather than the whole we also do not demand that every piece of literature serve the same purpose or hit the single high note. I enjoy collaging paragraphs or sentences from different works that speak to each other. This is especially true and necessary in a local literature.

Publishing has become a very singular act, but reading will never be that. Reading demands plurality, it’s hungry, it wants more flavour, more thought, more pages, other pages, the other’s pages. I have great faith in readers and we’re living in a time when readers are ambitious, embracing technology and engaging with a literary evolution where the novel may become a portal to a new media blend of varied art forms. I’m right in there with the best of them, clicking, swiping and still bending the corners of the faithful page.

Malarky interview on CBC North by North West

I was recently interviewed most thoughtfully by Sheryl Mackay on her CBC radio show North by North West, the extended interview is now available for online listening and can be found by clicking below: | North by Northwest | Author Anakana Schofield – “Malarky”.

Nifty plugs for Malarky II: Modern Tonic choose Malarky as May Book Pick

I was particularly delighted to learn this week that my novel Malarky has been selected as a May Book Pick by Modern Tonic (Gay approved pop culture gems before they’ve been co-opted by everyone else)

Here’s what Modern Tonic had to say about Malarky

“We’re all for quirky, character-driven novels, and this insightful and sharply funny book delivers in spades. The protagonist, “Our Woman,” leads a working class Irish farm life, but after seeing her Afghanistan-bound son engage in hanky-panky with another man in the fields, and learning that her deceased husband may not have been the man she thought, goes on a truth-seeking odyssey of self-discovery.”

I was especially thrilled to find Malarky on a list that contained the wonderful Alison Becdel’s new book!

“Malarky is like nothing else, and what everything should be,” Kerry Clare reviews Malarky

When I wrote Malarky I chose a rotating point of view, I wanted that 360 degree circle, in close up, on one woman. I wanted one ordinary woman to matter, so I committed to her in my prose in an unremitting, relentless manner. I called her Our Woman to complete that sense of rotation as I wanted the reader to feel ownership over her or to possess her. To be engaged in her life like you might follow a favourite sports team (to cheer for her, to despair for her) or something you’re passionate about and long to have intimate knowledge of. (I should say that I learn so much about this book from readers, their responses make me aware of things I’d no notion of — the book forms new or unnoticed shadows.)

I never anticipated my novel would be embraced and understood with this same 360 degree wholeness. It is a great privilege to be understood, that’s all I can say about Kerry Clare’s careful and engaged reading of Malarky. Please click on this extract to read the entire review.

Malarky is a journey beyond the limits of love, an equally sad and hilarious portrait of motherhood.

Malarky is like nothing else, and what everything should be,” is something I wrote down this weekend. First, because it’s as funny as it’s dark, and also because it dares readers to be brave enough to follow along an unconventional narrative. Though the winding path is only deceptively tricky– Our Woman’s voice is instantly familiar, and the shifting perspectives remain so intimate and immediate that the reader follows. Consenting to be led, of course, which is the magic of Malarky. This is a book that will leave you demanding more of everything else you read.

Mighty Malarky review in mighty New Brunswick

Click on the image to enlarge and read this mighty review for Malarky written by Chad Pelley published in the Telegraph Journal Newspaper (New Brunswick) last Saturday. Thank you for reading and reviewing my book New Brunswick!

Happy Days: Malarky Vancouver Launch

Malarky Vancouver Launch

People’s Co-op Bookshop launch for Malarky April 1, 2012

Thank you to the great crowd of warm people who came out over the three hours and bought every single copy in the shop! It was so wonderful to see you all. Thanks to my son and Cameron Wilson for playing great fiddle music and laments and to Lori W. who made her debut on ukelele singing one my fave songs Miss Otis Regrets so beautifully. Thank you to Grandma Suzu and Toni for the fine food and thanks to Lindsay Brown and Siobhan Airey for these pics. Happy Days!


Scott Esposito has written a thoughtful, interrogative review of Malarky on his blog Conversational Reading.

I really appreciate this review because it is, as reviews should be, an engaging piece of writing in its own right. (Of course I might quarrel with his notion on ethos, preferring McGahern’s idea that the particular is the way to the general but that’s for another blog.) I was fascinated by his analysis of the prose and will give thought to his questions. Click on the quote below to read the entire review.

In terms of structure and voice, Malarky is an exemplary read, showing itself to be far ahead of most debut novels.


Thanks to Scott Esposito and Marcus Pactor for reading and writing these considerations of my work. Much appreciated.


Some thoughtful and interrogative reviews/ blogs have been posted about Malarky.

Marcus Pactor wrote a mid-book review, which is a curious concept that I might join him in writing sometime. I like the continuum that a mid-book review gives to the act of reading. It establishes that it’s ongoing.

Some extracts from Pactor’s blog

“The personal becomes political” is  worn, too.   Schofield turns it around so that the political becomes personal.   We’re very much in the post-9/11 world, but Our Woman’s mostly absorbed by her own life.  She’s interested in Afghanistan mostly because that’s where her homosexual son Jimmy took off to.  She’s interested in Syria because that’s where her latest lover’s from.  When she and her husband watch the news and see riots on the West Bank, she comments: “’Well whether they’re nutters or not,’ I said, ‘they’re lovely looking people.  Look at the great faces on those young men, see the elasticity in their skin and the beards make them look wise when they’re all but twenty.’”  This personalization is not a reduction.  New meanings and understandings of human value are assigned.  They have little to do with neocons and their useless counterparts.

Sentence-wise, she’s also  excellent.  You can hear the Irish voice articulating lovely, inventive metaphors. “One of her fleeting Ballyhaunis Bacon moments has just scraped by her, when the pork of her husband’s action clouts her forcefully out of nowhere and she finds brief comfort in the thought of him, entering the factory to have his flesh separated from his bones for betraying her the way he has.”

Read the entire post here

Malarky in Georgia Straight

Lovely write up for Malarky in today’s Georgia Straight’s Best Spring Reads article. I was reassured to read the writer cottoned on to the political elements and the humour in the book.

Here’s a link to the piece, click on this quote from it below.

“it joins a long line of ambitious writing that turns the peculiarities of Irish life into a mirror for the world.”

Lovely image sent to me by a reader this morning

Lovely image sent to me by a reader.I particularly appreciate the hot water bottle, as am a great worshipper of this essential invention.

Vancouver books @ 49th Shelf

I have a piece published today at the 49th Shelf (formerly Canadian Bookshelf) today. It’s a piece in which I finally have an opportunity to talk about Renee Rodin’s memoir Subject to Change, a book I’ve wanted to highlight for a while. I also include Taxi!, Crossings and Adventures in Debt Collection.

Here is the opening to the piece, click the link to read the rest.

The domestic features significantly in my debut novel Malarky. Domestic territory and behaviour are surveyed, examined and subverted within it. Lest this give the impression I am way domestic, I assert from blast off that vacuuming is the sole household task I excel at. If there was a way to vacuum and read simultaneously I would do it. I have succeeded in walking and reading.  I have almost succeeded at knitting and reading, but vacuuming and reading still evades me.

When I was frustrated writing Malarky I would turn on the vacuum. The straight lines, diagonals and heave-ho repetition improved my disposition, but inevitably my mind wandered to books I wanted to revisit. Sometimes to simply reacquaint with a sole paragraph.

Here are some, of the many, local Vancouver books that have caused me to strand the hoover in the middle of the floor and search for a paragraph or moment in them.

To continue reading click here

Malarky reading @ Incite (VPL) March 21, 2012

I am looking forward very much to reading from Malarky, along with Tamara Faith Berger (Maidenhead) and Ben Wood (The Bellwhether Revivals), at the Vancouver International Writers Festival’s reading series Incite.

The reading will take place on March 21, 2012 at 7.30pm in the Alice McKay room at the Vancouver Public Library. Admission is free.

Malarky will be for sale and I will be happy to sign copies.

Thanks a million to VIWF for inviting me. I’m glad to be returning to the Alice McKay room, where we had our Taxi! and Crossings events, of which I still have such strong, warm memories and am excited to meet both authors and learn about their work.

Malarky mentioned in today’s Irish Times book column

So touched to see Malarky mentioned in the Loose Leaves column in today’s Irish Times. Thank you so much to the journalists who work in the book section there and to everyone who has responded warmly and with an open mind to my novel. It has been a very long 10 years, so am deeply appreciative.

Happy Days!

Malarky selected for Barnes & Noble Summer 2012 Discover Great New Writers program

Some wonderful, if not miraculous news for my novel Malarky (publishing March 15): Barnes & Noble have selected Malarky for their Summer 2012 Discover Great New Writers program.

Some of my favourite writers like Colum McCann, Cormac McCarthy and many more were previously been selected for this program. 

I sincerely thank the committee of volunteer booksellers, who made the selection and who volunteer their time and labour to do so. I look forward to hearing from and meeting readers who may discover Malarky because of this program.

Merci encore! This is incredible news!


Today my partner reports back that unusually he took his walk in the rain and how it grew on him. It was atmospheric and he enjoyed “the ambiance of the clouds, the glow from the ships and city lights and the vortex created by the blackness of the water.”


He is also wearing the jumper I knitted him for xmas. The first jumper I have ever knitted in this lifetime. It’s is so endearing this creation ! And when I see it on him, well I get a little chesty smile at the sight of it. It really has a bit of a Middle Earth look about it (due to a number of technical challenges with the wrong sized needles and having to go avant-garde on the pattern as a result).


The last two days were the equivalent of a literary long distant- no-sleep truck drive.  But Malarky is on her way to you. Enfin! Thank you so much to everyone who is showing such warmth and curiosity about my novel. It was a long haul. (10 years)

Q&Q Spring Preview 2012

Quill and Quire included my novel Malarky in their Spring Preview 2012 article today :

Biblioasis is comparing Irish-Canadian writer Anakana Schofield’s debut novel, Malarky ($19.95 pa., April), to Brecht’s Mother Courage and Beckett’s Endgame. When Philomena discovers her son canoodling with another man and is informed of her husband’s (possibly invented) indiscretions, she embarks on a journey of discovery that involves grief, resilience, and something like madness.


Malarky will be published in March, the publication date has been brought forward a tad.

I am also looking forward to Anne Fleming’s short fiction collection, Marie-Claire Blais novel (Mai at the Predator’s Ball), Teresa McWhirter’s stories and Tim Bowling’s unscrupulous salmon canners practices and numerous others books this year.

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