Graywolf. May 2023. 136p. ISBN 9781644452295. $25. F
Porter’s follow-up to the Booker Prize–longlisted Lanny is yet another slim novel suffused with emotional weight beyond its word count, singular in form and raw in its portrayal of Shy, a troubled young man on the brink of adulthood. The narrative follows its titular teenager over the course of only a few nighttime hours, as he wanders out into the darkness with a rucksack full of rocks, away from Last Chance, a home for “very disturbed young men.” Porter’s language here is more urgent than readers have seen from him, portraying Shy’s mercurial psychology with a style than lands somewhere between Joycean stream of consciousness and the distressing first-person interiority of Iain Banks’s The Wasp Factory. It’s a fragmentary reading experience, as Shy’s headspace is riddled with haunting memories and voices—of parents and therapists, confidants and tormentors—with Porter conveying this swirl of turmoil in a shifting typeface that adds to the work’s viscerality. This formal experimentation coalesces to create a character defined by his profound emotional vacillations, shouting sound and fury into the void as he wrestles with his own fragility and contradictions.
VERDICT A bold formal statement that’s both a continuation of Porter’s thematic interests and an artistic expansion; if it doesn’t quite rise to the level of his previous work, fans of the author and adventurous readers alike should still find plenty to chew on.
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