Check It Out: Lanny by Max Porter

Jul 20, 2020

This is Jessi Wakefield with the Sioux City Public Library, and you’re listening to Check It Out.

Dead Papa Toothwort is an ancient tree demon made entirely of ivy and cares little for humanity. He is not just part of nature, he is nature, personified. He has seen monks executed on this land, seen witches drowned, seen industrial slaughter of animals, and has seen men beat each other senseless. He cares not. So, when the words of a single boy can rouse him from his stupefied slumber, you know there is something special about this child. 

This is the opening premise of Max Porter’s novel Lanny, an astonishing work of magical realist fiction. At its heart is Lanny, a free-spirited young boy who roams the village and the woods around it, his imagination stoked by his lessons with an eccentric old artist "Mad" Pete. There is something very special, almost magical about Lanny. He has an uncanny gift that only comes with the wisdom of innocence. 

Porter does an extraordinary job of writing a modern cautionary fairytale. His writing ability somehow finds the sweet spot between stream of consciousness poetry and symbolic prose. The story goes into darker territory, allowing Porter to explore many social issues and the way the media portrays them.  He manages to shine a light on humanity’s weaknesses and society’s disgraceful acts all the while having a valuable sense of theater and myth. 

The book reminded me of parts of Patrick Ness’s A Monster Calls and Guillermo Del Toro’s masterpiece Pan’s Labyrinth. It’s a short read with only 200 pages, but it packs such a punch that it is one book that will stay with you for a very long time.

Contact the Sioux City Public Library for this title and other titles that balance between the real and the magical. 

Support for Check It Out on Siouxland Public Media comes from Avery Brothers.