Grief Is The Thing With Feathers
By Max Porter
Faber & Faber – £7.99
This book appears to have been lauded beyond high, literary heaven.
Not only is Grief Is The Thing With Feathers, The Spectator’s book of the year, it has been short-listed for the Goldsmiths Prize, The Guardian’s First Book Award, and, in conjunction with Swansea University, is Winner of the International Dylan Thomas Prize for 2016.
Personally, I don’t get it.
I really like the theme of two young boys facing ”the unbearable sadness of their mother’s sudden death” in a London flat they share with their father – ”a Ted Hughes scholar and scruffy romantic” who imagines ”a future of well-meaning visitors and emptiness.” But, I found the irksome, relentless reliance on the visitation by Crow (”antagonist, trickster, healer and babysitter”) eventually getting on my tits.
Normally, I’d be up for the surreal quality of such intent and well meaning, but the mere fact that so much of the healing process is pronounced by way of Crow (not even The Crow, just Crow, the brazen familiarity of which, for some reason, I still find annoying), suggests some kind of total disconnection. And I don’t know why.
Naturally, there are some really lovely segments, such as that on page fifty, where the author, Max Porter brilliantly writes about the sorrow of longing: ”I missed her so much that I wanted to build a hundred-foot memorial to her with my bare hands. I wanted to see her sitting in a vast stone chair in Hyde Park, enjoying her view. Everybody passing could comprehend how much I miss her. How physical my missing is. I miss her so much it is a vast golden prince, a concert hall, a thousand tress, a lake, nine thousand buses, a million cars, twenty million birds and more. The whole city is my missing her.”
Yet even such well written and compelling prose, wasn’t enough to distract my imagination away from what I actually found a distraction: the thought process behind Crow itself.