Having achieved so much success, Porter’s second book has a weight of expectation behind it, but he hasn’t disappointed, for Lanny is a fine follow-up, perhaps more accessible than his first while still embracing his unique writing style ... After reading Lanny, I did something I’ve never done before: I read it again. I felt that I would both understand and appreciate it better the second time around and was keen to study how the author managed to lure me in, even spellbind me, with such a magical and singular story ... I suspect Lanny will be a novel I will return to again, simply to absorb the strangeness of the story, the cleverness of the structure, the authenticity of the dialogue and the ethereal mystery that surrounds the book’s titular character. For those who are put off by experimental fiction, and I confess to being one, this is a novel to shatter your prejudices, for Max Porter understands that even the most complex idea must have a decipherable meaning if it is to be of any worth to a reader.
Porter’s second book, Lanny, is every bit as thrilling and bizarre [as his first novel] ... Lanny defies straightforward generic classification, with its shifts between continuous and lineated prose ... Though these strange forms might suggest that Lanny is a difficult book, it is, in fact, eminently readable—partly because of its dreamlike lucidity ... The most jarring aspect of Lanny is the juxtaposition of its fantastical cast of characters (reminiscent of Jim Crace in his stranger moods) and its unapologetically contemporary setting ... It is difficult not to see this as in some sense a 'post-Brexit' book, which dramatizes and critiques a certain idea of national character. Sometimes this is not subtly done ... Lanny is an unabashedly peculiar little book. Some readers may find the strangeness of the form and Porter’s propensity for bizarre metaphors and lavish figurative language off-putting, even pretentious. But for those willing to suspend judgment about what a good novel 'should' look like, it is a magically beguiling work, a triumph of artistic vision.
The English writer Max Porter’s antic new novel is presided over by a monstrous rural personification of chaos, decay, and renewal ... I am not going to tell you a thing about the dead-of-night magic-realist denouement of Lanny, except to say that it is written, like the whole novel, with an extraordinary verve that’s by turns lyric, eerie, and comical ... Rivulets of italic conversation literally twist and turn on the page, forming typographic meanders and little orphaned oxbow lakes of text. Graphical experiment aside, this whole strand of the book amounts in itself to a small comic masterpiece, capturing the energy and rue—sometimes the malignity—of contemporary home-counties vernacular ... Porter’s main characters have discrete and engaging voices ... Porter may also have written the first great Brexit novel: a book about the deepest, oldest, strangest sense of itself that England possesses.
Max Porter’s second novel is a fable, a collage, a dramatic chorus, a joyously stirred cauldron of words ... Lanny is...remarkable for its simultaneous spareness and extravagance, and again it is a book full of love. It plays pretty close to the edge over which lie the fey and the kooky; anyone allergic to green men may need to take a deep breath. But Porter has no truck with cynicism and gets on, bravely, exuberantly, with rejuvenating our myths ... If the material of modern country life in Lanny feels rather familiar, with its mix of enchantment and ordinariness, emotions flashing out from the creases of routine, Porter’s rendering of it is beguilingly singular, with a freedom and fabular confidence of its own ... It’s not as political commentary or state-of-the-nation study that Lanny speaks most forcefully. It’s the formal inventiveness that will stay in the mind, the shapes and pairings, the sudden eruptions of imagery ... Porter’s writing is poetically concentrated while also deploying a wonderfully common-or-garden kind of language, loved and used, rolling off the tongue. He is a superb writer of children ... There are sections of Lanny that turn too wacky for me ... But Porter is a writer who takes risks, and this is the way new things are made.
Max Porter is a writer who gets children, and he also gets the pressures of parenting ... dazzlingly inventive, darkly humorous ... is, among other things, an antidote to fantasies of the charms of small-town life...Forget privacy and warmth; these villagers are of a piece with Roald Dahl's nastiest ... Although not as buoyant, humorous, or moving as Porter's first novel, Lanny is every bit as original and more heart-racingly propulsive. His title character's off-the-charts whimsy might strike some as more twee than beguiling, and Dead Papa Toothwort as more puzzling than compelling. That said, Porter's innovative hybrid of fairy tale, fable, and myth cunningly evokes the freewheeling fantasies of children at play — down to the book's peculiar final section. The result is a puckish celebration of imagination and free spirits rising above the buzz of societal scolds and the anxieties of parental love.
It’s not easy to establish the once-upon-a-time, wild-wood atmosphere of this book and make it credible. Porter’s writing taps into some of the rooted English strangeness of an Alan Garner, or even Thomas Hardy, and gives it a pared-down energy. He is unafraid of risking self-parody; at times some of the typographic tricks he employed in the first book feel like an indulgence here, lines curling and jumping and disappearing into tiny point sizes as Lanny climbs a tree, but mostly you are more than happy to go along with it just for the crackle of the imagery and Porter’s ear for dialogue. There is too...a genuine raw emotional edge. It’s the oldest of all page-turning devices to introduce the most trusting of boys and shadow him with unseen peril, but Porter does it with eyes wide open, satirizing in his glancing way every single detective-story cliche and true-crime platitude.
There are a handful of novelists from the past century whom I think of as sorcerers. Like Merlin of Arthurian fame, such authors (T.H. White, A.S. Byatt and others) find a way to inhabit vast stretches of time, accounting for everything that’s happened before and what’s to come ... Still in his 30s, Max Porter has securely joined this order of poets and novelists ... in Lanny, Porter turns this same screw of his imagination, offering the ultimate incarnation of nature and its pitiless sovereignty ... Lanny is one of the most beautiful novels of the past decade.
In Lanny we again get a supernatural presiding spirit. Yet this time, instead of seeming to emerge naturally from the human material, it feels arbitrarily imposed. Not only that, but the human material on which it is imposed isn’t very convincing either ... a distinctly soppy New Age fable ... there may be some people—fans of Jonathan Livingston Seagull spring to mind—who’ll consider Lanny enchanting and full of insight. For the rest of us, though, it can’t but seem a shame that after such a terrific debut Porter has dedicated his undoubted talents to a book as misbegotten as this.
Lanny might sound, on the surface, like the happy result of the middle-class dream of an artsy upbringing, but there isn’t enough in him to amaze us as he amazes other characters. Worse yet, he appears to amaze the novel’s narrative voice. This undermines the reader’s ability to suspend disbelief ... this turns out to be a recurrent problem throughout the book ... It is more as if the author is reaching after something profound to power his writing, a poetic intensity of the kind that drove his first book so well. This time, however, the subject will not supply it ... The rising tension brings out strong feelings in the main characters, an emotional range in which Porter feels at home, and which, finally, we occasionally share ... it is hard to call the book accomplished in its psychological or social portraiture. The disparity between the meagerness of the world shown and the flamboyant tone used to talk about it can be irritating ... It is as if the novelistic subject and scope of interest, which seemed so logical, didn’t prove to be the right step after all for an author who really has the heart for a prose poem. Yet there is one area in which Lanny succeeds: its political ambition.
...the plot is not actually the most interesting part of Lanny. It’s the book’s structure, which is constantly switching perspectives ... The back-to-back narrations — without heavy exposition from the author — quickly steep us in the interiors of the characters. They also equip us with a wider lens through which to absorb and assess the book’s plot and everyone’s emotions and motivations ... Porter’s framework has enabled him to write a book that is part poetry and part prose, where each main character feels like a member of a chorus delivering a soliloquy, some humorous, many others pained.
...delivers quite the punch with its combination of unlikely effervescence, authentic emotion, and literary exploration. Deliberate without being obvious ... Porter builds a complex but eminently readable story in which he considers the nature of trust, parenting, and community. The author’s deftness in rendering typical contemporary reactions to the situation while also delving into the past and the imagination reveals the depth of human life and the fine line between the mystical and the everyday. Porter has created both an entertaining tale and a novel of exceptionally creative experimentation and genre extension.
Lanny, another packed compendium of the surreal and down-to-earth, stays close to the pattern of its predecessor ... Response to loss is painfully portrayed and acutely analysed. A phantasmagoric entity has a central role. Pungent immediacy emanates from prose as rich as poetry ... Very occasionally, a false note is struck. There’s some stridency in the presentation of Lanny’s father. The child himself doesn’t always escape feyness ... But more usually — whether offering psychological and emotional finesse, vigorous social comedy or vivid vignettes of the countryside...the book is expertly pitched. Shimmering with the uncanny, it’s a remarkable feat of literary virtuosity.
I don’t want to use reviewer-y superlatives, but I don’t think I will read anything else like it this year. Like his previous work, it is honed, almost whittled. It has a hallucinatory quality to its sort-of-prose, sort-of-poetry. The novel manages to fuse mythic, folkloric subjects – the haunting 'Dead Papa Toothwort' who emerges from his slumber at the beginning – with quite precise anxieties and angers about the present state of the country ... It resembles Dylan Thomas’s almost oratorio in many ways, not least in the polyphony of voices it conjures ... the horrific and the urgent are tethered together. It is also very English – but the same England of Ravilious prints and campanology is also the England of pub-bore bigots and ancient monsters ... It is a book which offers a morose kind of redemption in the end, without distancing from the terrors.
This focus on character as conveyed to the reader through narrative voice is a central concern of the novel. Porter uses language and form as a means to convey the spirit of the village, as faithfully as possible, in text ... By giving us this stream of unfiltered human self-involvement, Porter show us the nature of a village as a microcosm of human society, and he shows how difficult it is for people to live with one other ... Max Porter’s Lanny is an attempt to capture a village, entirely, in language, and it does so by trying to represent the village’s breadth of narrative voices. It’s an ultimately empathetic, even humanist project. But its representation isn’t always positive. People are human. They’re unsympathetic, rude, racist, ungenerous, speculative. They beat up pensioners and make false accusations and invite hysteria and sensationalism. They can be judgemental neighhors or maybe self-aggrandizing, polluters or gardeners. But in the act of reading, we’re made a mute witness to them. Like Lanny and Dead Papa Toothwart, or Porter himself, we are made active, careful listeners. In doing so, we give them space to speak.
[Porter's] polyphonic new novel, Lanny, pays its respects to Dylan Thomas and his radio play Under Milk Wood ... Fragments of conversations and dreams jostle on the page, whorls of text overlap and bleed over the edges, as Toothwort indulges in noise ... The sections of Lanny’s first part that belong to Toothwort deserve to be read aloud or listened to. As in Grief the verse-like prose focuses heavily on sound and rhythm ... Porter’s work comes to serve as an ode to nature and the act of creation.
... what happens, however harrowing and suspenseful, is not really the point in such a bravura performance — of language and understanding at their outer and innermost limits. If only we might see Lanny, as Dead Papa Toothwort does: 'Young and ancient all at once, a mirror and a key.'
Porter writes exquisitely and vividly, carefully deploying tensions, with a fine ear for the myriad nuanced reactions and voices of those involved in the search. If the novel has a fault, it’s that it relies a little too heavily on the miraculous, and that its ending is a tad too complicit with the grammar of convention ... Yet, Lanny is a wonderful piece of work, resonant and uncanny, full of dreamy, quiet moments, reaching towards an engrossing, vivid climax. Attuned to our contemporary malaises, and with a classic sense of style, it marks Porter as a writer to watch.
An off-center sophomore novel by Porter...steeped in British folklore and a canny sense of the uncanny ... Porter is an enchanter with words; at no point does his story, recalling British tales of the Green Man, seem improbable, even as its eerier and more inexplicable moments come faster, revealing the leafy darkness that threatens the unwary. Elegantly mysterious: a story worthy of an M.R. James or even a Henry James and a welcome return by an author eminently worth reading.