Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

A reoccurring question I have as I read BC/Vancouver fiction is who were these novelists writing to? I’m with Ethel Wilson en ce moment and I do have the sense the novel (Swamp Angel) is written to a reader who is “elsewhere”.

Has this changed? Does it matter? Is there a degree of apologizing in advance? The introductory swathe to “where we are” is curious, the need to situate.

I begin to see musical genres within this fiction ….

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On the other side of the road non-fiction, the range of what’s been written is so extensive, I wonder if there’s anything left that hasn’t been considered in relation to the local. (cows, bridges, CFL are all covered)

Malcolm Lowry’s Bravest Boat offers one of the better descriptions or encounters with Vancouver I’ve ever read. Really it’s astonishing to read those paragraphs and find within them both the past and resonance of the present.

Lowry, based on the correspondence I read, took a dim view on the city at the time he wrote it. (Likely influenced by his conservationist overtones springing from his enrapture with trees). I find him a bit exhausting on trees and seagulls. I’m much more interested in seeing and hearing what I miss(ed) standing on the roads each day. The trees make their presence amply felt, I don’t need them hauled up on a pulley and lamented. I find writers cave in too readily to this temptation. Conducting a tree gospel or rhapsody.

I continue to see where the travel writing aspect of early Vancouver/BC literature (1920’s earlier and after-ish) now breaks off into less of a “come with me and I’ll show you” point of view, but instead a narrator who assumes you’re right here beside him/her.  It’s much more interesting when the narrator assumes you know something of the city, even if you don’t, it’s a more mature literature somehow. And my favourite is where they obscure the city by renaming it or not naming it or generally give you little, but these exquisite moments like the rhythm of the way people move or some tiny thing (anthropology of the ordinary) where, you, the reader, get an “ah yes” moment of recognition.  There’s a particular taste of a certain cup of tea, it reminds me off. Same brand of teabag, yet you do not always experience it.

I walked into a v interesting pile of books today, and welcomed them, with a great deal of assistance from my son, who helped me carry them to our home. Some will journey on and be hopefully traded in for copies of Betty Lambert’s Crossings for readers at our December VPL event. Don at McClouds Bookshop downtown was superbly helpful in sourcing the copies I have so far.

Amongst the “resting chez nous” stack were some local classics!

An Account to Settle: The Story of the United Bank Workers (SORWUC) (Press Gang)

Common Ground Stories by Women (Press Gang)

Some kind of government publication called Sound Heritage Vol VIII this one is called Opening Doors Vancouver’s East End.

And my favourite of the scoop:

Forever Deceiving You: The Politics of Vancouver Development. (Published in 72 by the Vancouver Urban Research Group)

Slightly further geographically afield from the viaduct I was delighted to scoop Jean Baudrillard’s For a Critique of the Political Economy of the Sign — a book only last week I was reading a few pages of upon google book preview. I can’t recall why I was reading it, perhaps in relation to a film, that’s my recollection, but I made a note to obtain a copy. Lo the pavement, how she does provide!

It dawned on me today how to improve the current library collection.

I regularly find books in the Canadiana reference section and then discover there are no circulating copies when I try to borrow them. Sometimes if I look online the books are for sale on abe or where-ever, therefore I am going to keep a list of what’s out of circ. and if I find a copy for sale on a used books site submit a request that the library purchase it.

I am not entirely hopeful, but I think the collection should have as many of these books in circulation as is possible, even if it is only single copies. It seems vital to me to update what’s missing and am surprised this hasn’t been done til now.

I have this idealism that the public should be able to access literature, especially local literature, and the collection should not become depleted because of wear and tear and disappearing copies back in the 1980’s.

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.

Read opening bits of Manfacturing Consent, found handy-dandy as ever on the side of the road. Side of road is providing amply these days. After I read the first few paras was left with this daunting sense of Manfacturing Content and what have I manufactured myself… far too much attention on male writers!

It is a source of national shame that Helen Potrebenko’s Sometimes They Sang is out of print and remains so. It should also be a source of major feminist agitation! An agitation that would heave it back onto the page! Someday I will be in position I hope to do something about it. This slim novel must be back in palms. It’s unique in it’s rural -urban considering and the woman is looking for a job. We live in a province with a turbulent labour history and where is it on the page? People are exasperated this very minute searching for jobs and they’ll search even harder in their fiction to find someone engaged in such a task.

Éilís Ní Dhuibhne is another writer whose work I should have written about.

Betty Lambert’s novel Crossings is another novel that should be revisited and I’d like to do an event that would bring some women together to revisit it and consider it today.

One of the challenges of writing such pieces is where to place them. It is becoming particularly woeful in Canada to find outlets.

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I am excited to be collaborating with a visual artist on a performance piece for the autumn. Today we had our first meeting to discuss ideas and it was an inspired and buzzing exchange.