Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

Hot Press, Anne Sexton

You know you’re far from Maeve Binchy when a book opens with an Irish mammy telling her grief therapist that she is plagued by visions of homosexual orgies. Anakana Schofield’s Malarky is a wonderful, inventive darkly comic novel about a woman on the edge. Written as twenty feverish episodes, Malarky is the story of  ‘Our Woman’, a farmer’s wife from Mayo. Her husband is three days dead when the novel opens and Our Woman confesses these intrusive thoughts to her counsellor, who recommends scrubbing the floor vigorously for distraction. Before his untimely demise Himself may have had a fancy woman in Ballina and her son has certainly being getting up to no good with a neighbour’s boy, so Our Woman sets out to learn more about these sexual shenanigans herself. Malarky is written in gorgeous technicolour prose and is in turns laugh out loud funny and deeply moving. Highly recommended.


Anne Sexton (August, 2013) Hot Press, Ireland.

Noted in the NYRB

In the latest edition of the NYRB two different reviews by two different writers named Michael open with a confessional I:

Michael Lewis review of Capital by John Lancaster opens:

“When I moved to London for graduate school back in the early 1980’s the city felt as if it existed for just about every purpose other than for people to make money in it.”

Michael Scammell’s review of Douglas Smith’s Former People: The Final Days of the Russian Aristocracy opens:

“When I was studying Russian at a British army language school in the 1950’s, most of my teachers were Russian emigres who had fled the Bolshevik Revolution.”

In both of these review openings, the writers seem to be asserting some kind of authority on the material they are about to review for us by placing themselves geographically at its source. Why? In both cases, the writers assert they are reminded by those particular days they cite by the books they have read. We don’t care. Really we don’t care. Truly we don’t care what you are reminded off. We especially don’t care when we think about the VIDA pie charts last week. If the NYRB can’t be arsed to assign more reviews to women on the grounds that there aren’t women who have authority on these topics (the chronic excuse), well I don’t consider either of these openings establish authority. They are, in short, confessional guff. I can write confessional guff with ease and thus now find myself qualified to write on both these topics.

Direction & NW review in National Post

Saturday gone I reviewed Zadie Smith’s new novel NW in the National Post.

You can read my review here. I have plenty more to say on this book, but the review is a start.

I noticed in Adam Mars-Jones Observer review of NW how he reads the novel backwards out from, against and back to the modernists. Whilst he offers other insights early in his review worth heeding and considering this reading the book backwards seems odd to me. Why didn’t he consider what the book might be writing toward? What and where it might be writing into? I really do not understand reviewers who apply such rigid reasonings to literature. I am all for examining the continuum, but one doesn’t have to chronically only look over the shoulder you can also look left and right, step off the kerb and sail through the present traffic lights .. unanchored.

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!


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

The diminished amount of literary criticism and the increased emphasis on book as singular act, marketing and hussling outsourced to writer (pimping also recommended, judging by current Canada Reads nonsense)  results in the wondering of whether fiction writers are no longer seeing their work as part of a continuum.  That something came before it and something will follow it and along this continuum the interrelation of other work might be a valid considering and that your book has a life beyond your creation of it. (and the reckoning on whether you did a good job or not)

Reviews are deemed good or bad based on some misconception that their only purpose is to sell books. Reviews are not intended to be the decision maker of whether someone should buy and read the book, (eg NP buy it or skip it daftness) they’re a piece of writing in their own right, in relation to a considering of the book.  A consider of and along, within and out from the book. They are not the bloody hammer at an auction.

I could read criticism that some may consider harsh on a novel I appreciate, it does not detract from my experience of the particular novel, it merely gives me other considerings on that novel, which I welcome. It enriches my experience with the book. I welcome anyone thinking intelligently about literature because in reading people who probe intelligently on literature I also learn to be a better writer.