cover image Lanny


Max Porter. Graywolf, $24 (224p) ISBN 978-1-55597-840-2

In his bold second novel, Porter (Grief Is the Thing with Feathers) combines pastoral, satire, and fable in the entrancing tale of a boy who vanishes from an idyllic British village in the present day. Lanny is an elfin, perpetually singing child “more obviously made of the same atoms as the earth than most people these days seem to be.” He is a mystery to his parents, recent transplants to the picturesque, increasingly fashionable (and expensive) town: the mother is a former actress working on a gruesome novel, and the father’s a yuppie commuting to London. Lanny’s somewhat cloying eccentricity (“Which do you think is more patient, an idea or a hope?”) captivates a reclusive artist, “Mad Pete,” who gives him drawing lessons, and enchants Dead Papa Toothwort, the town’s ancient and resilient presiding spirit: “[The villagers] build new homes, cutting into his belt, and he pops up adapted, to scare and define.” Toothwort is a mischievous, Green Man–esque deity who prowls the village “chew[ing] the noise of the place” and especially enjoys feasting on Lanny’s song. When Lanny goes missing, the suspicion falls on Mad Pete, and the resulting media blitz turns the village into a “hideous ecosystem of voyeurism,” exposing its rifts and class resentments. In the novel’s satisfying conclusion, Toothwort stages a hallucinatory play that reveals Lanny’s fate. This is a dark and thrilling excavation into a community’s legend-packed soil. [em](May) [/em]