Martin and John is a novel written by Dale Peck. It was published in 1993 by HarperCollins Publisher, Inc. Its British and original title was Fucking Martin, but due to American standards, had to be changed for the shelves on this side of the pond. It is a medium size novel and it can be a challenging read because of it's odd structure. It's main themes revolve around death, the loss from it, and dealing with both.
This is not the worst thing I remember…
-Martin and John
...or so says the narrator in the lines that open the first real chapter of the book. Martin and John is an oddly constructed narrative documenting episodes in the life of the title characters, though the narrator in the book always remains John (and hence the entire book is in first-person perspective). It takes place during the AIDS epidemic in the gay community and the virus plays a central role in several parts of the story. What makes it odd is that the roles of Martin, John, and the other characters in the book constantly change, making each chapter seem more like a short story rather than a continuation in the greater story. This can be very disorienting to a reader when starting the book, especially if they know nothing about the book beforehand. One of the few constants is that John gets older as you get farther in the book.
There is only a limited set of characters, but only in a sense as their relative relation to John often changes. Suprisingly, Martin does not appear in every chapter. However, Martin and John always have some mixture of a romantic/sexual relationship, but Martin appears in different chapters as a boy John’s age, his stepfather, John’s long-term boyfriend/lover/partner, and a few other roles. Other characters are a little more consistent in their relative roles: Bea is step-mother or mother, Henry is an older man usually a father, Barclay is an older man with which John has a past with.
The similarity in roles and the partially consistent chronology of the chapters is the main binding force that brings this disparate stories together into one, though the later you go into the book, the more apparent the reason for the strange narrative. It comes together quite well in the end and, through all the apparently dissparate stories, the ties that bind the greater meaning come together to a greater picture in the end.