Martin John by Anakana Schofield is November’s Irish Times Book Club pick
The story of a sex offender exiled from Ireland to London, by the award-winning author of Malarky, is on Goldsmiths Prize shortlist
Anakana Schofield: will discuss her work with Laura Slattery of The Irish Times at the Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin 1, on Wednesday, November 2nd, at 7.30pm. The interview will be podcast on irishtimes.com om November 30th
This month’s Irish Times Book Club choice is Martin John by Anakana Schofield, published here by And Other Stories. Like Solar Bones by Mike McCormack, it has been shortlisted for the Goldsmiths Prize, whose winner will be announced next week in London. It was also shortlisted for the 2015 Giller Prize (Canada’s answer to the Booker) and the 2016 Ethel Wilson Prize for Fiction.
The author will discuss her work with Laura Slattery of The Irish Times at the Irish Writers Centre, Parnell Square, Dublin 1, on Wednesday, November 2nd, at 7.30pm. The interview will be podcast on November 30th. In the interim, we shall publish a series of articles exploring Martin John and the topics it addresses, beginning on Friday with an essay by Tara Tobler, fiction editor at And Other Stories.
Martin John is the story of a sex offender, exiled by his mother to London, supposedly out of harm’s way. Martin John must put a stop to it. They have an agreement, he and Mam. Get out to Aunty Noanie on Wednesday. Stop talking rubbish. Don’t go near the buses and don’t go down on the Tube. Keep yourself on the outside. Get a job at night. Get a job at night or else I’ll come for ya.
But Martin John can’t stop. Meddlers are interrupting him and Martin John doesn’t like Meddlers. If he’s interrupted he can’t complete his circuits; if he can’t complete his circuits, bad things may happen. That’s a fact.
Written with all the wit of her award-winning debut Malarky, exhibiting a startling grasp of the loops and obsessions of a molester’s mind, Martin John is in the words of her publisher “a testament to Schofield’s skill and audacity and stands as a brilliant, Beckettian exploration of a man’s long slide into deviancy”.
The reviews have been stellar. Eileen Battersby in The Irish Times wrote: “Comparisons have been made with Beckett and Pynchon, but Martin John is closer to Nabokov’s Lolita and John Kennedy Toole’s Pulitzer Prize-winning classic A Confederacy of Dunces. Schofield’s black vision is darker and all her own. I love the humour and the disciplined rhythms of her plain, exact prose, as well as the audacious panache.
“It remains a mystery why Canada’s Giller Prize jury chose Andre Alexis’s Fifteen Dogs over Martin John, but there will be more than enough award panels and readers eager to throw laurels at Anakana Schofield’s feet.”
Eimear McBride, reviewing for the New York Times, wrote: “Deploying some serious literary gumption, Schofield’s frequently hilarious, and distinctly modernist, linguistic games are always gainfully employed in the uneasy, indelicate task of placing her reader nose to nose with the humanity of a sex offender . . . addictively reflexive, and potentially lethal.”
Fellow authors have also heaped praise on Martin John. “Profane, strange, hilarious, and necessary, Martin John is a beguiling triumph,” wrote Patrick deWitt, author of The Sisters Brothers and Undermajordomo Minor. “This is a very moving and terrific book,” said Daniel Handler (alias Lemony Snicket).
Donal Ryan wrote: “This is literature serving its most essential function: illuminating the darkest recesses; dragging the unspoken and suppressed to the foreground of our consciousness; throwing light across the blackest of humanity’s vistas. This is writing at its most fearless: visceral and searing, yet textured and nuanced; the darkest of comedy and the deepest of insight, combined in a manner unique to Anakana Schofield.”
Schofield won the Amazon.ca First Novel Award and the Debut-Litzer Prize for Fiction in 2013 for her debut novel Malarky. Irish-Canadian, she has lived in London and in Dublin and now lives in Vancouver. Malarky was also nominated for the Ethel Wilson Fiction Prize, selected as a Barnes & Noble Discover Great New Writers pick, and named on many best books of 2012 lists. Schofield has contributed criticism and essays to the London Review of Books, the Guardian, The Irish Times and the Globe and Mail in Toronto.