Max Porter’s debut, Grief is the Thing with Feathers, packs a tremendous punch within its one hundred and fourteen pages. Hosting a unique, innovative style, the book explores themes such as grief, love and healing masterfully. The character of the crow is both obnoxious and subtle simultaneously, reflecting the unpredictability of grief.
There is a certain musicality to both of Porter’s books that makes them feel almost like poetry. For me, this is partially due to the typography and the language. Porter is almost playful with his language, especially in Lanny and it somewhat resembles the books I read as a child by Roald Dahl et al.
I recently attended Max Porter’s book signing where he discussed, in depth, his new book Lanny. This experience further added to the magic of the book as I listened to other peoples’ interpretations and compared them with my own. Furthermore, hearing the author read aloud from the book added to my thoughts about it holding both auditory value as well as visual value.
Lanny is a short book about a young boy, who is different and special in some way and whose mother encourages him to take art lessons from a local artist. A lovely relationship blossoms between them, but when Lanny suddenly goes missing, people begin to claim there was a more sordid element to their friendship. The book explores the reactions of the village residents and contains a magical realism element, that works extremely well for me.
Interspersed within the story are excerpts of dialogue from a character named Dead Papa Toothwort, who is an ancient, almost omnipresent being within the village who eavesdrops on the gossip and mundane conversations within this village, all the while, being particularly interested in Lanny. Within these snippets of conversation, we see everything that could possibly be discussed in the average English village, ranging all the way from plants to problematic xenophobia. This was a clever way of pointing out current societal issues without removing any of the whimsy. Furthermore, the experimental format and typography essentially forces people to focus.
Despite both of Porter’s books being short, I never felt as though they lacked substance. Both were full and well-rounded, and both made me feel a range of emotions. It is not often I give a book five stars, but both of these books fully deserve that rating. My partner is not a huge reader of anything other than music-related books, but he started reading Grief is the Thing with Feathers recently and is enjoying it as much as I did.
I sincerely hope the wait for Porter’s third book if not a long one, because I am already excited for more of his writing. I thoroughly recommend reading both Grief is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny, because they are modern masterpieces, both stylistically and linguistically.