When Max Porter came to Bridport Literary Festival in 2019, it was one of the most amazing talks. Audiences loved it.
His novel at the time, Lanny, was a Sunday Times bestseller and longlisted for the Booker Prize. It was an extraordinary story told by the most incredible and unorthodox wordsmith with a compassion for his characters and the rural countryside.
Well, Porter is coming back to the festival this year, on Tuesday 7 November, when he’ll be in conversation with Real Dorset writer Jon Woolcott about his latest novel, Shy, a lyrical study of troubled youth.
Musician PJ Harvey, who was at BridLit last year reading from Orlam, her novel-in-verse written in dense Dorset vernacular, said reading Shy took her ‘straight back to my teen-self, all her buck-toothed strangenesses and shyness, and made me want to hold her a little bit closer.’
She says: ‘As with Max Porter’s previous books, this is living poetry-prose, pulsative, growing, coming of age, borderless in its thinking, boundaryless in its approach….all against a subtle backdrop of a country under bad governance, and the gentle, invisible care of those who look after our most vulnerable.
The Irish Times describes Shy as a ‘perfect’ book, with Porter not only equalling but surpassing the triumph of his debut, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, which won him the Sunday Times/Peters, Fraser + Dunlop Young Writer of the Year, the International Dylan Thomas Prize, the Europese Literatuurprijs and the BAMB Readers’ Award, and was shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award and the Goldsmiths Prize.
Shy traces a few strange hours in the life of a teenage boy who is escaping Last Chance, a home for very disturbed young men, and walking into the haunted space between his night terrors, his past and the heavy question of his future.
As he wanders into the night, he listens to the voices in his head: his teachers, his parents, the people he has hurt and the people who are trying to love him. Ultimately, it is a story about being lost in the dark, and realising you are not alone.
In a review for The Guardian, Kevin Power says: ‘One of the interesting things about Porter’s work is that he uses the formal techniques of modernism not to shock the reader into assuming a greater critical distance from the text but rather to cultivate a deeper imaginative involvement in the lives of his characters. His books, for all their expressionistic idiosyncrasies, are hugely readable, even gripping.’
Max Porter is at the Bull Ballroom on Tuesday 7 November at 5pm. For tickets contact Bridport Tourist Information Centre on 01308 424901 or go online.