Martin John

by Anakana Schofield

Martin John CoverIt’s been a while since I’ve been good and disturbed when reading, but to say that Schofield’s narrative about the mentally unbalanced public masturbator and exhibitionist accomplished what it, presumably, set out to do seems like it shouldn’t be at all surprising. The story follows Martin, a man who plans his day based on the newspaper he buys in the morning; who calms himself by wandering his favourite subway station, brushing up against unsuspecting women; and who obsesses over doing whatever it takes to evict the man he hates, Baldy Conscience, who lives upstairs. The book is initially written in very short, barely-connected sections, making it a bit confusing to follow and determine where, exactly, Schofield’s going with this, but this strikes me as purposeful. The author’s presentation mirrors Martin John’s mental state, the jumbled mess making way for longer, more coherent sections only when he acts as a more-or-less functioning member of society, and going back into the more confusing passages as Martin becomes increasingly dishevelled. And the narrative unfolds in a truly spectacular fashion; by keeping us in the dark for such a long time, the weight of events that were initially glossed over hits the reader firmly, and we clearly view the terrible depths our protagonist has reached.

It wouldn’t surprise me if Martin John is disliked, even hated, by a good chunk of people who pick it up due to Giller Prize hype, but the book is so unique and so well-written that I highly recommend taking some cautious peeks into Schofield’s uncomfortable masterpiece. (And it most definitely takes an accomplished author to make my jaw drop at the mundane act of destroying Eurovision newspapers.)