Irish-Canadian author ANAKANA SCHOFIELD has made a splash on both sides of the Atlantic with her latest novel, Martin John. Here she tells SOPHIE GRENHAM about her CONNECTION TO MAYO and art’s symbiotic relationship with literature …
Vancouver-based Anakana Schofield is an Irish-Canadian author. When she isn’t making a serious dent in the literary world, she contributes criticism and essays to the London Review of Books Blog, The Guardian, The Irish Times and The Globe and Mail.
Malarky, her debut novel, won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award in Canada and the (US) Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in 2013. Her new book, the hugely successful Martin John, was short listed for the Giller Prize last year.
Anakana’s work has received glowing praise from principal publications on both sides of the Atlantic, including the New Yorker which called her recent offering “Frenetic, risk-taking… deliberately cryptic and bleakly funny, Martin John puts you inside the mind of a person you’d strive to avoid in real life, but also points to the fundamental elusiveness of character.”
I don’t tend to write at home unless it’s late night. I do tend to work very long hours, so I always notice out my apartment window that no one on my street is awake. With each novel I write them in different places, I wrote Malarky in a library near my apartment, I wrote parts of Martin John in Chinatown where I had a desk share for a while in a building that was previously a pork-test kitchen. My current work is being written at a local cafe and mostly in airports since I have been traveling quite a bit with Martin John since it was published here last September.
Vancouver has a selection of Independent Book Shops. I like Pulp Fiction bookstore because it has a reliable supply of New York Review Books Classics titles and a wide range of both smaller press publications and writers I admire who aren’t prominently found in any larger chain bookstores, where shelf space seems to be auctioned to the highest bidder rather than literary merit. I dislike the way market forces manage to shape our reading rather than quality.
On literature and art
In my view, books give way to books, writers give way to writers and engaging with visual art would be a lifelong encounter. Case in point in my first novel Malarky I invoke a public art exhibition created by Hegarty & Stones that took place in Dublin and I recently had a lovely parcel from the artists containing postcards of the exhibit. Here was art begetting art. Art in conversation. It’s an ongoing conversation, it’s not a static oomph with me. I work and think in a very diffuse way. Recently I’ve been appreciating a particular short story of Cortázar’s, Valeria Luiselli’s work, have only just discovered Thomas Bernhard and I am rereading Jenny Diski’s fabulous novels.
On chilling out
I never relax. Do writers relax? Really? I just worry. And work. And then I worry some more. Then I have a cup of tea and recommence worrying and working. The only thing I really do for relaxation is follow bird flu strains and virology on Twitter and I find intense enjoyment in paying attention to the weather and tweeting about it. It’s a genetic thing, my mother regularly texts me weather reports from Mayo. You can never say enough about the weather.
On her Irish roots
I’m often in Ireland since I published my novels. My mother lives in rural Mayo. I lived in Dublin for years before I moved to Vancouver, so my closest friends are still there. I’ll be buried in Mayo if I can manage to ever afford the cost of shipping my weary bones back. You can’t get buried here, there’s no space in the graveyard and I don’t believe in cremation. I don’t like hot things. Though I am not reticent about menopause, since I like getting old. It’s very agreeable. I’d happily get old twice and omit youth entirely.
On what’s next
I’ll be appearing at International Literature Festival Dublin with Lucy Caldwell (we were both published in the recent Long Gaze Back anthology), Greenwich Writers Festival, Waterstones in Cork, Listowel Writers Week with Patrick deWitt and I am doing a book event with Eimear McBride in Norwich and a London event with Yuri Herrara. I feel immensely fortunate to be appearing with and in conversation with all these remarkable writers. I’ve had great experiences at Irish festivals so it will be lovely to be back with Martin John.
Malarky (Oneworld, €11.75) and Martin John (And Other Stories, €15.80) are available now from bookshops nationwide.
Anakana will appear at the International Literature Festival Dublin on the 24th of May and Listowel Writer’s Week on the 3rd of June.
Image by Arabella Campbell
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