Max Porter: Pen Portraits

His first two short novels, Grief is the Thing with Feathers and Lanny, underline Max Porter’s ability to paint vivid mental pictures with words. Now Porter has turned his attention to the last days of a famous British painter. The Death of Francis Bacon – somewhere between fiction and prose-poem – seeks not only to evoke the artist’s thoughts, but also to ‘write’ his paintings. It’s certainly not a biography of Bacon, but perhaps in imagining its way into the painter’s mind it tells as much about his art as a catalogue raisonné would. In what Stuart Kelly has called ‘a powerful stiletto of a book’, Porter has created an allusive, fragmentary and vividly poetic conversation which is sympathetic, intimate and at times very funny. For example, in response to John Berger’s critique that Bacon is ‘very remarkable but not finally important,’ Porter imagines the artist’s waspish response: ‘Oh naff off, you skag.’ In this event, filmed live at the 2021 Edinburgh International Book Festival, he discusses the joy of the artist’s influence on his own work with Director of the Design Museum, Tim Marlow.

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