‘Grief Is The Thing With Feathers’: The Healing Touch Of Max Porter’s Words

TW – Bereavement

Grief is a very strange feeling. Familiar yet foreign. Empty but all-consuming. Writers continuously find new ways to translate grief onto the page. Readers, including myself, desperately find comfort in their work. In these few weeks before my grandad’s memorial, I returned to Max Porter’s debut novel, ‘Grief Is the Thing With Feathers’. It left me questioning how a first piece could have the nerve to be this good, succeeding in expressing what many have failed to express.

The narrative is a beautiful combination of prose, poetry, dialogue and essay – radically leaving itself impossible to be defined as a single medium. In Porter’s own words, “pure prose was an inappropriate vehicle to convey the chaos and shaking experience of grief.” It wouldn’t make sense for a novel to have conciseness and linearity when the personal narrative of bereavement completely lacks those. His writing presents a voice and story that has spoken to millions, including myself.

Porter chooses to embody grief through the character of Crow: a grotesque, yet comforting creature which visits a widowed father and his two boys. Call it a bizarre ‘Mary Poppins’, if you will. Inspired by a similar feathered protagonist in Ted Hughes’ collection ‘Crow’, Porter spins the bird’s image into something new – a presence more imposing and comical. As Ali Smith once put it, “books will make books, and they will continue to make more books.” Words have the power to inspire and heal.

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About Author

Laura Patterson

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October 2021
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