Excerpt from Lanny by Max Porter, plus links to reviews, author biography & more

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by Max Porter

Lanny by Max Porter X
Lanny by Max Porter
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  • First Published:
    May 2019, 160 pages

    Apr 2020, 224 pages


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Book Reviewed by:
Natalie Vaynberg
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Print Excerpt


Robert said I should try again to offer Pete some money.

We argued about it.

He brought it up at a dinner party with Greg and Sally.

Tell me, he said, is it or is it not weird that Mad Pete is giving free art lessons to Lanny?

Don't call him that, I said, because I think it's horrid, and I dislike the cruelty Robert performs when he's drinking, when he is showing off to friends.

I vote totally weird, said Sally.

I vote not in the slightest bit weird, said Greg. He's Peter Blythe, he was pretty famous back in the day, so you're getting a bargain. And if they get on well, and he needs the company, go for it.

'Needs the company' is exactly why it's not right. It's unprofessional, said Sally.

Exactly, says Robert, waving his expensive salad tongs. Who needs the company? Are we lending out our son to stave off Pete's loneliness? Like conversational meals on wheels for sad old artists?

Oh fuck off, Robert, I said. Is it beyond your shrunken world view to imagine that something nice might exist without money ever needing to change hands?

Glances. Awkward silence.

Go on Robert, I think to myself, deal with your angry wife and your weird son.

Bloody hell, love. Fine. I just think you should insist on making it a formal thing, that's all. In my shrunken world view, I think that's the right thing to do.

Sally, who is a fool, giggled and said, Raw nerve Rob, and Robert and I shared a flickering and bitter conspiratorial glance because he detests being called Rob.


So I knocked on Pete's door. Come in, he said.

I won't, I'm killing someone important in my book. I just popped down to give you this.

And what's this?

Some money for Lanny's art lessons. Oh no, you mustn't.

We feel we ought to, I said. And I was proud of myself for saying 'we', proud of my insincere solidarity with Robert.

I feel you absolutely ought not to, said Pete. As I said before, just buy a golden bird in the spring. I won't accept payment for something I'm enjoying so much. Your son has brought me joy. He's got a good eye. I like showing him things.

He loves it, I said. He sits in his room and draws, and sings.

Good, said Pete. I should be paying you!


I walked up the village street, pretending to be on my phone so as not to have to stop and chat to Peggy about the coming moral apocalypse, and I squirmed in the imaginary space between how Robert would react to a comment like that – I should be paying you! – and how I wanted to hear it. I wanted to be charmed by a comment like that. I wanted dinner parties with Pete, not Greg and Sally. Dinners where nobody speaks for a while, where we talk about books we've read, and someone falls asleep and it's not weird or eccentric, it's just slow and kind, unhurried and accepting. Acceptance is a fascination of mine. I ask at every parent's evening, Is Lanny accepted? Well-liked? Settling in?

And his teacher says, Lanny? You make him sound like an illegal alien. Lanny's wonderful, absolutely at ease and well-liked, as if he's been here forever.


I hate the smell of metal, Pete.

He mumbles as we sit, dangling legs over a chalky ledge, up in Hatchett Wood. The village is a cruciform grid with the twin hearts of church and pub in the middle. Four hundred people sheltered from the fields, clinging to each other for warmth. Redbrick boxes and the outlying farms, the big house, the timber yard, a handful of scruffy agricultural blemishes on the green patchwork skin of this area. If you looked at the village from above and it was a man, then his hair would be Hatchett Wood. We'd be sitting on top of his brain.

The smell of metal scares me, he says.

At once I am a child again, smelling my palms.

Excerpt from Lanny. Copyright (c) 2019 by Max Porter. Reprinted with the permission of Graywolf Press, Minneapolis, Minnesota.

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