Anakana Schofield – Author of Martin John and Malarky

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.

My condo post yesterday if actually read is clearly something of anti-developer position and certainly anti-the-city being beholden to and essentially run by developers, thus it was amusing to see it being scooped up by condo blogs and essentially lifted as content! Do these peeps cease at nothing? What are they drinking? It’s a delusional blend right down to the google alert.

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I have thought more about the Zadie Smith’s quote included in my other post On reading better and at 5.30 am I was struck by a reservation around this (in bold) part of it

“…When I write about books I’m trying to honor reading as a creative act: as far as I’m
concerned the job is not simply to describe an end product but to
delineate a process, an intimate experience with a book which the
general reader understands just as well as the professional critic.”

It’s the choice of the word honor, a tad precious, a tad careful. I was struck instead by an image of the reader at the coalface mining and how we enter an engagement with reading that should be perhaps mucky and challenging and muscular. That said the raw material must be at that coalface for us to dig in and dig at and dig out.

I’ve noticed this preciousness also creeping in around the aesthetics of the physical book amid the yawning insistence that the physical book, by virtue of being tactile and rectangular, (in contrast to a zillion pixels) is therefore an art object. Speaking as someone who co-habits with a visual artist, I find this notion bunkish and dislike this cloying romanticism that’s creeping in with the advanced pre-bemoaning the death of the book.  Hang on a minute there with the funeral garlands and elevation… Books aren’t all beautiful objects far from it. There’s also a long history of them being dog eared and abandoned and lifted (in my case) from the side of the road. I don’t want my books to become reverred, sacred icons. They are as practical to me as a set of buckets. We have a working relationship. Yes there are some I am a bit soft hearted at the sight or lift of them, but they are mostly late 1960’s Grove Press (typographical cover) ones and they certainly possess a utlilitarian look to them.

I would be keen to acknowledge reading as a muscular act, one that takes places in all kinds of conditions and circumstances. Nor is it a singular act. One reading bleeds to and from and back to another.

On reading better

This weekend I was thinking and writing about reading. (and technology) I just came across this quote from Zadie Smith in relation to critical reading with which I concur. One of the exciting things about publishing a novel is the opportunity to talk about reading, which actually interests me a great deal more than talking about the business and act of writing.

“I think a good book review is a place to meet a book on its own
terms,” said Smith, “not as an ideological vehicle or an academic
plaything. Often people think of writing as primary and reading as the
lesser art; in my life it’s the other way around. When I write about
books I’m trying to honor reading as a creative act: as far as I’m
concerned the job is not simply to describe an end product but to
delineate a process, an intimate experience with a book which the
general reader understands just as well as the professional critic.”

 

source NY Observer