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Digital Subscriptions > Quill & Quire > April 2019 > Warning signs

Warning signs

Novelist Anakana Schofield extends her stylistically brash, innovative examination of women and gendered violence

Bina: A Novel in Warnings

Anakana Schoield

Knopf Canada

AS CALENDAR YEAR 2019 dawned, political junkies were staring in wonder at the pitched battle raging between U.S. president Donald Trump and incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi. Literary junkies, on the other hand, could avail themselves of a different, but no less intense, set-to – this one opposing Irish- Canadian novelist Anakana Schofield and tidying guru Marie Kondo. Schofield had tweeted her umbrage at Kondo’s insistence on decluttering by divesting oneself, among other things, of books that do not bring joy. The tweet went viral and was quickly followed by a long-form piece in the Guardian, in which Schofield wrote, “Literature does not exist only to provoke feelings of happiness or to placate us with its pleasure; art should also challenge and perturb us.”

That Schofield is speaking at least partially out of self-interest is obvious: the author herself suggests that she would be quite worried if anyone other than psychiatrists or sex criminals found joy in her 2015 sophomore novel, Martin John. That book, focusing on a serial sex offender, is told in a fractured, disjointed narrative that dives into the psyches of the disturbed title character and his enabler mother. Martin John is without question a book to “challenge and perturb us,” though one might cavil with the author on the subject of joy. There is joy in watching a consummate prose stylist in complete control of her materials and sublimely confident in her sensibility.

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