If you don’t have anything nice to say, don’t say anything at all. My mother never actually told me that, but for the purposes of this blog let’s lie and say she did. I’m not going to say one word in regards to the quality of Martin John or whether or not I think it should win the Giller because I came to a very important realization while reading it:
Anakana Schofield doesn’t need me on this one.
I arrived at this particular epiphany while reading an article by Russell Smith of the Globe and Mail. In it he said:
With so very many amateur reviews of every book now circulating online – on booksellers’ sites, on Goodreads, everywhere – and so many of them suspect in one way or the other, are they at all valuable to anyone? Are there now too many reviews?
For the most part Smith was referring to disingenuous reviews by paid reviewers and competitors, but there’s something to be said about the sheer volume of unnecessary reviews on sites like Amazon, Goodreads, etc.
I’m a book blogger, clearly I’m a proponent of everyone having a voice. But the point I’m trying to make–specifically by DNF-ing Martin John–and part of the point Smith was making in his article, is that I’m not sure everyone should have a voice about everything.
Martin John was described by writer Donal Ryan as, “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.”
This is a novel I was never going to like. This isn’t stuff that hits me where I live. To me, it’s super weird and a little fucked up and “weird and fucked up” is not my wheelhouse.
Quite frankly, no matter how successful Anakana Schofield was at crafting the character and narrative of Martin John, I wasn’t going to “get” this one. So why should I be entitled to give it a confused, uneducated, biased review that likely would come off as negative?
Hypothetically, if I gave it a one-star review (which I wouldn’t have), that’s a one-star review that Schofield shouldn’t have to deal with. It’s doing harm for harm’s sake, in a way, to a book that probably doesn’t deserve it (based on how much writerly praise this book has gotten).
It’s my fault that I don’t get the hoopla. It’s not Schofield’s fault that I don’t like this type of writing. And so, I’m tapping out.
What I will say, though, is Martin John is an inventive, brave choice, both for the writer and the reader. If you’re looking for a different reading experience, by all means give this book a read. As Laura remarked on Goodreads, “I don’t know what to make of this book, but any book that keeps me up till midnight to finish is doing something right. I just don’t know what that something is!”