Max Porter’s second book, Lanny, is written in sparse, direct language but the world that he conjures – a small, unnamed village within commuting distance of London – is full. In fact it’s so vivid and colourful that, having finished the book, I was convinced that he had included a map of the village in the text. There is none – he simply painted it in my head, somehow. There’s a great gift for concision at work here: the elegant and spare, but often visceral, prose is a sharp needle.
The village may be contemporary, but like everywhere it is stalked by the past, and particularly by the mysterious Dead Papa Toothwort, an echo for the ages; a ghost and a shapeshifter who sees and hears everything here, and has done for centuries. At the heart of the book is Lanny, the son of Robert and Jolie, a boy regarded by many of the villagers as a loner and therefore peculiar. In the second half of the book, something terrible happens; propelling the action swiftly, and with nerve-shredding urgency. Paced like a thriller, I defy any reader to put it aside before reaching the denouement.
Lanny is a tremendous novel, which more than lives up to the promise of Max’s first book, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, and fully deserved its long listing for the Booker Prize this year. Unsettling and at times experimental, it’s always accessible, Lanny is one of the best and most original novels I have read in some time.
Last weekend I had the great pleasure of hearing Max speak – the space was absolutely packed – I had to find a place near the back of the tent, and it’s not hard to see why. Max is a wonderful speaker – clever, thoughtful and serious, yes, but also funny and relaxed. Afterwards I asked him if I should send him some questions in preparation for our conversation at Bridlit – No, he said with a wink, Hit me with Anything. So I will.
I can’t tell you how excited I am to have an opportunity to speak with this extraordinary talented writer about both his books and their huge success, in what is bound to be a festival highlight.