Anakana Schofield, Martin John

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Anakana Schofield tells the pitiful story of strange Martin John, a slow-witted, obsessive compulsive hoarder who likes to touch girls (maybe he’s slightly psychotic as well). His mother sends him away from Ireland after an incident with a girl. He now lives in South London and works as a security guard on the night shift. He lives according to a rigid routine which includes visiting his aunt on Wednesdays.

Martin’s world includes religiously reading the newspaper, but avoiding P or p words, doing circuits around the train station, and avoiding Baldy Conscience. Baldy Conscience seems to be his upstairs neighbour, mostly likely a bald guy, but at some point I really wasn’t sure that he wasn’t a figment of his imagination.

The genius of Anakana Schofield’s writing is to give us a fascinating picture of Martin John’s twisted, fragmented thinking, showing his confusing world populated by hostile figures.

His best weapon for observing Meddlers is the puddle. He can stand by a puddle and wait for them to pass. He can stand in their way. Just. Like. That. Stop! Stop hard and abrupt in the middle of the pavement. Sometimes people bump into him. He likes that. They apologize. The Meddler will claim not to have seen him. They call him mate. Instead of bait. He is bait. Baited to them. But subtracted now because of a puddle. A puddle is the most successful way to separate from a Meddler

All Meddlers and the noticeable increase in Meddlers can be traced to the arrival of Baldy Conscience. There have always been Meddlers but never ever at this volume. It was Baldy Conscience who brought the maximum Meddlers out.

If you think that does not quite make sense because you are lacking context, that is not quite it… Martin John does not quite make sense. He has a odd perception of the world, he is incapable of developing and maintaining normal relationships, he enters into very odd behaviors and derives pleasure from pain. He thinks that he can be protected from his fears and from certain troublesome people by performing repetitive acts, such as doing circuits around the waiting area of a train station. When he was a child he used to drive his mother crazy by doing endless loops around lamp posts.

There is some suggestion that some of his psychological issues may have their origin in being mistreated as a child but that is never spelt out and Martin John never seems to blame this himself, nor to have a damaged relationship with his mother, although their relationship is a little odd.

And though his mother seems to have made a lot of efforts to keep him outside of institutions, living in the community, by providing some means, and making rules for him to follow, it may be that in the end, an institution is the only place where Martin John can be supervised and taken care of, for his own good. Right?

I read this book as an e-book. I understand from some comments I read some place that the text display in the paper version is also peculiar.

Reference:

Schofield, Anakana. Martin John. Biblioasis, Windsor, ON, 2015.

Other things:

https://pacifictranquility.wordpress.com/2016/01/13/getting-to-understand-the-situation-of-that-guy-review-of-martin-john-by-anakana-schofield-2015-biblioasis/

http://www.scotiabankgillerprize.ca/finalists/2015shortlist/

http://www.theglobeandmail.com/arts/books-and-media/review-anakana-schofield-probes-the-mind-of-a-disturbed-man-in-her-brilliant-second-novel-martin-john/article26333164/

http://www.theguardian.com/books/2016/feb/05/martin-john-by-anakana-schofield-review

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