Lanny, Max Porter
Lanny is so clever and so beautiful, but like its protagonist it also feels unknowable and slippery. It will sneak away from you when you’re not looking. The protagonist Lanny, a young boy who we’re told is ‘unusual’ in certain ways, is obsessed with the trees and the local myth of Dead Papa Toothwort. We hear this Dead Papa Toothwort from through the passages of poetry sprinkled through the pages, as he views the village from his ancient vantage point.
The village is a generic spot within commuting distance from London, but there is nothing generic about Lanny. Is there something specifically ‘wrong’ with Lanny? We never find out. But this story is a triumph of voice, as we hear from Lanny’s mother, a bored crime writer, and their friend Pete, an older artist who becomes friends with the boy.
Porter hops between their voices with startling agility, needing no signalling only a word or two to tell us who we’re hearing from and what they think. The language and the story are both spare, conservative and luxurious, until we’re dropped off a terrifying precipice in the second part. Here Porter brings everyone’s worst fears, the anxieties and prejudices waiting in shallow graves below mossy bark and cracking twigs, out to play in the daylight.
In a way the book does sneak away like Lanny is wont to, because it’s so short and such a quick read, holding you so close you can hear it breathe and sense the hairs on its pages brush yours, then coming to an end as strangely as it began.