Max Porter (writer)

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Max Porter (born 1981) is an English writer, formerly a bookseller and editor, best known for his debut novel Grief is the Thing with Feathers.[1]


Porter was born in High Wycombe in 1981 and received a degree in History of Art at the Courtauld Institute of Art in London, followed by an MA in radical performance art, psychoanalysis, and feminism.[2][3] Prior to his writing career, Porter managed the Chelsea branch of Daunt Books[4] and won the Bookseller of the Year Award in 2009. He was Editorial Director at Granta and Portobello Books until 2019.[5]

In 2019, Porter was named as a guest curator for the Cheltenham Literary Festival.[6]


Grief is the Thing with Feathers is a hybrid of prose and poetic styles about a crow who visits a grieving family of a Ted Hughes scholar and his two young boys.[7] It draws heavily upon Hughes's Crow: From the Life and Songs of Crow and its title is derived from Emily Dickinson's "Hope is the thing with feathers". In 2016, Grief won the Sunday Times PFD Young Writer of the Year Award,[8] the Books Are My Bag Readers' Award for fiction,[9] and the International Dylan Thomas Prize.[10] It has also been shortlisted for the Guardian First Book Award[11] and the Goldsmiths Prize for experimental writing.[12] Reviewing for The Guardian, Sarah Crown writes that the book "is heartrending, blackly funny, deeply resonant, a perfect summation of what it means to lose someone but still to love the world – and if it reminds publishers that the best books aren’t always the ones that can be pigeonholed or precised or neatly packaged, so much the better".[13] It has been translated into twenty-seven languages.[14]

Grief is the Thing with Feathers was adapted into a play of the same name, directed by Enda Walsh and starring Cillian Murphy, which premiered in Dublin on 25 March 2019 and has been performed in London and New York.[15] In an interview, Porter details the experience of adapting Grief for the stage: "[w]ith both Cillian and Enda, the goal was to make the production as true as it could be to the book. There were no changed endings or swapping one feature for another".[16] Cillian Murphy won an Irish Times Theatre Award for "Best Actor" for his performance as the grieving father.[17] The play was a New York Times Critic's Pick, with Ben Brantley writing that the performance "beautifully evoke[s] the way in which the whole world seems apocalyptic after a personal tragedy".[18]

On 5 March 2019, Porter's second book Lanny was published by Faber and longlisted for the Wainwright Prize 2019 and Man Booker Prize 2019, and has shortlisted for the Gordon Burn Prize 2019.[19] Faber describe Lanny as "a story about a family whose village is peopled by the living and the dead. It’s a story about a boy with a gift for friendship and the traces of enchantment he leaves in the closely woven lives around him".[20] The book examines rural English community life and childhood myth in response to social division and ecological crisis. The book is set to be adapted into a film starring Rachel Weisz.[21][22]

In 2021, Faber released The Death of Francis Bacon, a hybrid poetic prose work that the publishers describe as "seven extraordinary written pictures the explosive final workings of the artist’s mind".[23] The Death of Francis Bacon is set during the last days of Francis Bacon's life as he lays dying in Madrid and is written in visceral poetic language which corresponds to Bacon's style of painting. Porter describes the text as an "attempt to write as painting, not about it; an attempt to replicate thought, struggle, the struggle of thought, but also the sheer energy of the eye’s confrontation with the painted image" which is "the result of a long preoccupation [...] with Francis Bacon".[24] Writing for the Scotsman, Stuart Kelly claims that the hybrid work is "not a novel, art criticism or biography" but maintains that it is "a very moving depiction of a mind in dissolution at the very edge of death", noting the influence of Dylan Thomas on Porter's "apocalyptic" style of writing.[25]

Porter's publisher Faber and Faber have announced that Porter's next novel Shy - "the polyphonic story of a troubled teenager" - will be published on 6 April 2023 in the UK.[26]



  • Grief is the Thing with Feathers (2015)
  • Lanny (2019)
  • The Death of Francis Bacon (2021)
  • Shy (forthcoming, 2023)

Short stories[edit]


  • "Kneeling Shepherd (i.m. David Miller)" in The Guardian (2017)[32]
  • Jerome's Study, with Catrin Morgan (artist), Prototype publishing (2018)
  • "Myth of the Mole", with S.J. Fowler, in POETRY (2019)[33]


  • "Interview with Alice Oswald" in The White Review (2014)[34]
  • "Dying on the Toilet", an essay on Francis Bacon's painting Triptych May–June 1973 (2016)[35]
  • "When I Lost My Father, I Lost His Voice Too", personal essay on BuzzFeed (2016)[36]
  • Studies for Studies (2017, contributor: by artist Catrin Morgan)[37]
  • Jerome’s Study (2018, with Catrin Morgan)[38]
  • 'Max Porter on Paul McCarthy's 'Piccadilly Circus: Fan Letter', Frieze Issue 200 (2019)[39]
  • Introduction to Time Lived, Without Its Flow by Denise Riley (Picador, 2019)
  • "How My Son's Love for Crystal Palace Made Me Fall For Football", autobiographical essay in Mundial[40]
  • "It Could Be Any Book" in The Gifts of Reading: An Anthology of Essays About the Joys of Reading, Giving and Receiving Books, curated by Jennie Orchard (2020)[41]
  • "Spirit D'escalier the Size of a Country", for the Aitken Alexander Isolation Series (April 2020)[42]
  • "It's So Good" (March 2021)[43]
  • "Poo Fairy" (March 2021) [44]


  • "Ground" in Nicola Hicks: Keep Dark (2018)[45]
  • It's Going To Be A Bright New Day: Would You Rather, with Bonnie Prince Billy (2020, pamphlet)[46]
  • Lyrics for 'Bed in the River' by Joan Shelley (May 2020)[47]
  • "MAN" and "WOMAN" lyrics for album DEAD CLUB by Tunng (2020)[48]
  • Lyrics for EP Three Feral Pieces by Bonnie "Prince" Billy and Nathan Salsburg (April 2021)[49]
  • All of this Unreal Time (film and art installation, Manchester International Festival, July 2021)[50] Written by Max Porter, featuring Cillian Murphy (actor), directed by Aoife McArdle (director), music by Aaron Dessner, Bryce Dessner, and Jon Hopkins


  1. ^ Porter, Max (3 April 2016), Max Porter @ 5x15 - Grief is the Thing with Feathers, retrieved 21 June 2019
  2. ^ Crown, Sarah (12 September 2015). "Max Porter: 'The experience of the boys in the novel is based on my dad dying when I was six'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  3. ^ "Max Porter: 'I love slang, I love hip-hop. I love the proper use of language'". The Guardian. 22 February 2019. Retrieved 28 September 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  4. ^ "Max Porter: Interview | The Bookseller". Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  5. ^ Allardice, Lisa (22 February 2019). "Max Porter: 'I love slang, I love hip-hop. I love the proper use of language'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  6. ^ "The Times and The Sunday Times Cheltenham Literature Festival Announces 70th Anniversary Celebrations: 'Seven at Seventy'". Cheltenham Festivals. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  7. ^ Porter, Max (2016). Grief is the Thing with Feathers. London: Faber and Faber. ISBN 9780571327232.
  8. ^ "Max Porter, Winner 2016".
  9. ^ "Books Are My Bag Reading Awards". National Book Tokens. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  10. ^ Flood, Alison (14 May 2016). "Dylan Thomas award goes to Max Porter's 'extraordinary feat'". The Guardian. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  11. ^ "Guardian first book award 2015 longlist – in pictures". The Guardian. 14 August 2015. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  12. ^ "The Goldsmiths Prize 2015: Grief is the Thing with Feathers". The Goldsmiths Prize. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  13. ^ Crown, Sarah (12 September 2015). "Max Porter: 'The experience of the boys in the novel is based on my dad dying when I was six'". The Guardian. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  14. ^ Porter, Max (2019). Lanny. London: Faber. pp. Biography Sleeve. ISBN 978-0-571-34028-6.
  15. ^ "Grief is the Thing with Feathers". Wayward Productions. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  16. ^ Ganatra, Shilpa. "Max Porter: Pushing the boundaries of the written word". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  17. ^ "The Irish Times Irish Theatre Awards: And the 2019 winners are . . ". The Irish Times. Retrieved 21 June 2019.
  18. ^ Brantley, Ben (12 May 2019). "Review: What the Crow Knows in 'Grief Is the Thing With Feathers'". The New York Times. ISSN 0362-4331. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  19. ^ "Lanny | Faber and Faber". Faber.
  20. ^ "Max Porter at Cambridge Literary Festival". Faber & Faber Blog. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  21. ^ "Weisz to star in film adaptation of Porter's Lanny | The Bookseller". Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  22. ^ Clarke, Stewart (7 March 2019). "Rachel Weisz Set to Produce, Star in 'Lanny' Adaptation". Variety. Retrieved 1 February 2020.
  23. ^ "Announcing Max Porter's The Death of Francis Bacon". Faber & Faber Blog. 20 October 2020. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  24. ^ Max Porter introduces The Death of Francis Bacon | 7 January 2021, retrieved 6 April 2021
  25. ^ "Book review: The Death Of Francis Bacon, by Max Porter". Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  26. ^ "Faber announces publication of Max Porter's new novel | News". Faber. 31 March 2022. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  27. ^ "Eight Ghosts Book". English Heritage. Retrieved 22 June 2019.
  28. ^ "Brother | State of Mind". Granta Magazine. 3 August 2017. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  29. ^ "Foyles / Pursuit: The Balvenie Stories Collection". Retrieved 6 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  30. ^ "Tank Magazine / Pressure Issue: Issue 86". Tank Magazine. Retrieved 6 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  31. ^ "INQUE Magazine". INQUE Magazine. Retrieved 7 June 2022.
  32. ^ "The Saturday poem: Kneeling Shepherd i.m. David Miller". The Guardian. 28 January 2017. ISSN 0261-3077. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  33. ^ "Myth of the Mole by S.J. Fowler, Max Porter". Poetry Magazine. Poetry Foundation. 6 April 2021. Retrieved 6 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  34. ^ "Interview with Alice Oswald". The White Review. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  35. ^ Porter, Max (13 June 2016). "Dying on the Toilet". The Paris Review. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  36. ^ Porter, Max. "When I Lost My Father, I Lost His Voice Too". BuzzFeed. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  37. ^ "Studies for Studies". Women's Studio Workshop. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  38. ^ "Jerome's Study". Prototype. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  39. ^ "Max Porter on Paul McCarthy's 'Piccadilly Circus' | Frieze". Frieze. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  41. ^ The Gifts of Reading. Weidenfeld & Nicolson. 17 March 2020.
  42. ^ "The Aitken Alexander Isolation Series: Spirit D'escalier the size of a country by Max Porter | Aitken Alexander Associates". Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  43. ^ "It's so good | Passa Porta". Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  44. ^ "BBC Radio 4 - Outsiders: Poo Fairy by Max Porter". Retrieved 6 April 2021.{{cite web}}: CS1 maint: url-status (link)
  45. ^ "Nicola Hicks - Keep Dark". ELEPHANT. Retrieved 23 June 2019.
  46. ^ "It's Going To Be A Bright New Day: Would You Rather, with Bonnie Prince Billy". Rough Trade Books. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  47. ^ "Bed in the River, by Joan Shelley". Joan Shelley. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  48. ^ "tunng Presents...DEAD CLUB | Full Time Hobby". Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  49. ^ "Three Feral Pieces, by Bonnie "Prince" Billy, Nathan Salsburg, Max Porter". Nathan Salsburg. Retrieved 6 April 2021.
  50. ^ House, Manchester International Festival Blackfriars. "All of This Unreal Time". Manchester International Festival. Retrieved 19 July 2021.