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Katherine Anne Porter (1890–1980)

Author of The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter

68+ Works 4,468 Members 72 Reviews 20 Favorited

About the Author

Katherine Anne Porter is known for her subtle and delicate perception; her careful, disciplined technique; and her precision of word and phrase. She wrote slowly and with restraint but achieved an impression of ease and naturalness that is close to perfection. She was born in Texas, schooled in show more Louisiana convents, and, working as a newspaper reporter and freelance journalist, traveled to such places as Paris, Majorca, Berlin, Vienna, and Mexico. Her Collected Stories (1965), which won both the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award in 1966, was written over a long lifetime. It includes works that have been a standard part of high school and college literature courses for a half-century. Among the best are "Noon Wine," "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall," and "Flowering Judas." "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," long enough to be considered a novelette, is one of several stories about a character named Miranda who as a girl and young woman undergoes experiences not unlike those of Porter. Other Miranda stories are "Old Mortality" and a group of seven gathered under the title "The Old Order" that deal with her childhood. Her one and only full-length novel, Ship of Fools (1962), 20 years in the writing, "is the story of a voyage... . A novel of character rather than of action, it has as its main purpose a study of the German ethos shortly before Hitler's coming to power in Germany... ."Ship of Fools' is also a human comedy and a moral allegory" (New Yorker). To some critics, the book was a disappointment, but all recognized its importance and it appeared on the bestseller list for 28 weeks in 1962. "In my view," wrote Robert Penn Warren in a tribute published in Saturday Review after Porter's death in 1980, "the final importance of Katherine Anne Porter is not merely that she has written a number of fictions which have enlarged and deepened the nature of the story, both short and long, in our time, but that she has created an oeuvre---a body of work including fiction, essays, letters, and journals---that bears the stamp of a personality, distinctive, delicately perceptive, keenly aware of the depth and darkness of human experience, delighted by the beauty of the world and the triumphs of human kindness and warmth, and thoroughly committed to a quest for meaning in the midst of the ironic complexities of man's lot." Much of the nonfictional part of that body of work was gathered into The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
Image credit: UPress, University Press of Mississippi

Works by Katherine Anne Porter

Ship of Fools (1962) 1,121 copies
Seven Contemporary Short Novels (1969) — Contributor — 75 copies
The Never-Ending Wrong (1977) 62 copies
Ship of Fools [1965 film] (1965) — Original book — 29 copies
Noon wine (1937) 28 copies
A Christmas Story (1958) 24 copies
Ship of Fools 2 (1981) 22 copies
Ship of Fools 1 (1981) 20 copies
The Days Before (1952) 16 copies
A defense of Circe (1955) 7 copies
Old Mortality (1983) 7 copies
Hacienda (1934) 4 copies
Los Premios Pulitzer de Novela, Vol VIII (1971) — Contributor — 3 copies
The Grave 2 copies
A Day's Work 2 copies
Antologia do conto moderno — Author — 1 copy
[No title] 1 copy
Brod budala 1 copy
The Fig Tree (1990) 1 copy
He 1 copy
Theft 1 copy
Rope 1 copy

Associated Works

The Best American Short Stories of the Century (2000) — Contributor — 1,536 copies
50 Great Short Stories (1952) — Contributor — 1,217 copies
Literature: An Introduction to Fiction, Poetry, and Drama (1995) — Contributor, some editions — 902 copies
The Best American Essays of the Century (2000) — Contributor — 759 copies
The Oxford Book of American Short Stories (1992) — Contributor — 730 copies
Short Story Masterpieces (1954) — Contributor — 659 copies
The Oxford Book of Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 504 copies
Great American Short Stories (1957) — Contributor — 487 copies
The World of the Short Story: A 20th Century Collection (1986) — Contributor — 454 copies
A Curtain of Green and Other Stories (1941) — Introduction, some editions — 369 copies
Women & Fiction: Short Stories By and About Women (1975) — Contributor — 361 copies
Selected Stories of Eudora Welty (1943) — Introduction — 292 copies
A Treasury of Short Stories (1947) — Contributor — 287 copies
Six Great Modern Short Novels (1954) — Contributor — 273 copies
100 Years of The Best American Short Stories (2015) — Contributor — 266 copies
The Treasury of American Short Stories (1981) — Contributor — 265 copies
The Troll Garden (1905) — Afterword, some editions — 250 copies
Twenty Grand Short Stories (1967) — Contributor — 155 copies
New York Stories (Everyman's Pocket Classics) (2011) — Contributor, some editions — 147 copies
The Norton Book of Personal Essays (1997) — Contributor — 142 copies
Randall Jarrell's Book of Stories (1958) — Contributor — 141 copies
An Anthology of Famous American Stories (1953) — Contributor — 131 copies
Read With Me (1965) — Contributor — 128 copies
Downhome: An Anthology of Southern Women Writers (1995) — Contributor — 115 copies
Norton Introduction to the Short Novel (1982) — Contributor — 98 copies
The Literature of the American South: A Norton Anthology (1997) — Contributor — 96 copies
American Short Stories (1976) — Contributor, some editions — 91 copies
The Retrial of Joan of Arc: The Evidence for her Vindication (1953) — Foreword, some editions — 75 copies
200 Years of Great American Short Stories (1975) — Contributor — 65 copies
American Christmas Stories (2021) — Contributor — 57 copies
The Vintage Book of American Women Writers (2011) — Contributor — 55 copies
Art of Fiction (1967) — Contributor — 50 copies
The Experience of the American Woman (1978) — Contributor — 47 copies
Masters of the Modern Short Story (1945) — Contributor — 44 copies
The Secret Self: A Century of Short Stories by Women (1995) — Contributor — 32 copies
Vogue's First Reader (1942) — Contributor — 27 copies
American short stories, 1820 to the present (1952) — Contributor — 26 copies
Studies in Fiction (1965) — Contributor — 22 copies
Eight Short Novels (1967) — Contributor — 22 copies
Nine Short Novels (1952) — Contributor — 17 copies
Modern American Short Stories (1945) — Contributor — 15 copies
Love Stories: Classic Tales of Romance (2010) — Contributor — 13 copies
Story to Anti-Story (1979) — Contributor — 13 copies
Stories of Initiation. (Lernmaterialien) (1978) — Contributor — 12 copies
31 Stories (1960) — Contributor — 12 copies
American Short Stories, Vol.5, The Twentieth Century (1957) — Author, some editions — 11 copies
Gringos in Mexico: An Anthology (1988) — Contributor — 10 copies
A New Southern Harvest (1957) — Contributor — 10 copies
Great Western short stories (1777) — Contributor — 9 copies
British and American Essays, 1905-1956 (1959) — Contributor — 7 copies
Time to Be Young: Great Stories of the Growing Years (1945) — Contributor — 7 copies
Modern American Short Stories (1941) — Contributor — 7 copies
Modern American Short Stories (1987) — Contributor — 7 copies
Twenty-Three Modern Stories (1963) — Contributor — 4 copies
Short Fiction: Shape and Substance (1971) — Contributor — 3 copies
Twelve short novels (1976) — Contributor — 3 copies
Ten Great Stories: A New Anthology (1945) — Contributor — 2 copies
Eyes of Boyhood (1953) — Contributor — 2 copies
Husbands and Lovers (1949) — Contributor — 2 copies
Enjoying Stories (1987) — Contributor — 2 copies
The PL book of modern American short stories (1945) — Contributor — 1 copy
Introduction to Fiction (1974) — Contributor — 1 copy


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Common Knowledge



This book contains 3 short novellas (as so described) from a very famous, highly regarded author who died in 1980. It was the first of her works I had read, and I was impressed & glad this had been recommended to me. Each of the 3 stories is interesting, and the last was fantastic.

Here is a wonderful composition of words in Pale Horse, Pale Rider, by Katherine Anne Porter: “It is like turning a corner absorbed in your painful thoughts and meeting your state of mind embodied, face to face.”

That is the quality of writing and insight I found here.
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RickGeissal | 13 other reviews | Aug 16, 2023 |
I haven’t previously read anything by this author, and hope not to read any more stories by her.

I will first admit that from the beginning I didn’t like this story – I liked nothing about it.

Neither did I understand the point of it.

Laura is the protagonist. She is visited by Braggioni almost every night; he strums his guitar and sings to her.

Laura is tired when she comes home and wants to lie down but she doesn’t say so; she says “Have you a new song for me this evening?” (She sounds like a woman who loves too much.)

Laura listens “with pitiless courtesy”. “--- she does not smile at his miserable performance.”

Braggion is sensitive to slights and it is dangerous to offend him.

He is a skilled revolutionist with an excess of self-love.

He has a “gluttonous bulk”.

There is a “disunion between her way of living and her feeling of what life should be”.

It is not explained how Laura comes to end in this situation with the unwanted visits of the obese, singing Braggioni, and why she cannot do something to get rid of him.

She is in Mexico, where she teaches children English. She visits prisoners and brings them food, cigarettes, money and messages.

The author states that the “scarlet blossoms” of the Judas tree are “dull purple”. How can they be both?? But we are not told where the Judas tree is.

The scrawny Braggione is a poet and a leader of men. How can he be both scrawny and have a gluttonous bulk? Or perhaps he once was scrawny and later grew gluttonous and obese?

He has “good food and abundant drink”. He has a wife. He confesses “One woman is really as good as another for me, in the dark.”

Braggione loves pistols, cannon and, best of all, dynamite.

We are told that Eugenio’s body has not yet been discovered by the guard, but we have not been introduced to Eugenio, and don’t know who he is.

It turns out Eugenio had taken tablets given to him by Laura, all of them. Why does she give him tablets that can kill him, whoever he is?

Braggioni’s wife weeps constantly – he is the cause of all her sorrows. I would also weep constantly if I were married to Braggioni.

This is such a confused story: we are not told things clearly.

Yet it was much appreciated when first published and probably still is. In 1966 the author received a Pulitzer Prize.

In the final paragraph Laura has a dream where she is told to leave the house. She reaches for Eugenio’s hand. The Judas tree is in the dream and sets her upon the earth and finally to a sea that is not water but a desert of crumbling stone.

Eugenio says he is taking her to Death and they must hurry as it is a long way off. He strips the “warm, bleeding flowers” from the Judas tree and Laura eats the flowers greedily. Eugenio calls her ”Murderer” and ”Cannibal!”

I assume the dream means she quickly has to get away from Braggioni, but she is going to Death, nonetheless. And I fail to understand the significance of the Judas tree.

Read the story at your peril!
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IonaS | Dec 2, 2022 |
It wasn't perfect, but it was interesting. Seeing everything from the granny's point of view was both fascinating and frightening.
BooksbyStarlight | Oct 25, 2022 |
Old Mortality 4stars
Uncle Gabriel, who at one time was married to their Aunt Amy, was now an overweight drunkard. Harry their father took them to the track one day and told them to bet on Harry's horse, Lucy. Lucy won and to celebrate, the two girls, their father, and Uncle Gabriel went to his house to say hi to his wife and then out. Uncle Gabriel's second wife was a bitter woman who did not hide how she felt in front of the children.
" 'we'll move to the St Charles tomorrow,' said Uncle gabriel, as much to Harry as to his wife. 'get your best dresses together, honey, the long dry spell is over.'
Miss Honey's nostrils pinched together and she rocked slightly, with her arms folded. 'I've lived in the St Charles before, and I've lived here before,' she said, in a tight deliberate voice, 'and this time I'll just stay where I am, thank you. I prefer it to moving back here in 3 months. I'm settled now, I feel at home here,' she told him, glancing at harry, her pale eyes kindling with blue fire, a stiff white line around her mouth.
The little girls sat trying not to stare, miserably ill at Ease. their grandmother had pronounced Harry's children to be the most unteachable she had ever seen in her long experience with the young; but they had learned by indirection One thing well – nice people did not carry on quarrels before outsiders. family quarrels were sacred, to be waged privately in fierce hissing whispers, low choked mutters and growls. If they did yell and stamp, it must be behind closed doors and windows. Uncle Gabriel's second wife was hopping mad and she looked ready to fly out at Uncle Gabriel any second with him sitting there like a hound when someone shakes a whip at him."

Now Miranda is a married (eloped) 18-year-old who runs into Old Maid Cousin Eva, on the train on the way to Uncle Gabriel's funeral.
"...they didn't do you much good, those parties, dear cousin eva," thought Miranda. 'They didn't do me much good, those parties,' said cousin Eva aloud as if she were a mind-reader, and Miranda's head swam for a moment with fear that she had herself spoken aloud. 'or at least, they didn't serve their purpose, for I never got married; but I enjoyed them, just the same. I had a good time at those parties, even if I wasn't a belle. And so you are Harry's child, and here I was quarelling with you. you do remember me, don't you?'
'yes,' said Miranda and thinking that even if cousin Eva had been really an old maid 10 years before, still she couldn't be much past 50 now, and she looks so withered and tired, so famished and sunken in the cheeks, so old, somehow. Across the abyss separating cousin Eva from her own youth, Miranda looked with painful premonition. 'Oh, must I ever be like that?' she said aloud, 'yes, you used to read Latin to me, and tell me not to bother about the sense, to get the sound in my mind, and it would come easier later.' "

" 'your branch of the family,' said cousin Eva, with that terrifying habit she had of lifting phrases out of one's mind 'has no more practical sense than so many children. everything for love,' she said, with a face of positive nausea, 'that was it. Gabriel would have been Rich if his grandfather had not disinherited him, but would Amy be sensible and marry him and make him settle down so the old man would have been pleased with him? No. and what could Gabriel do without money? I wish you could have seen the life he led miss honey, one day buying her paris gowns and the next day pawning her earrings. It just depended on how the horses ran, and they ran worse and worse, and Gabriel drank more and more.'
Miranda did not say, 'I saw a little of it.' She was trying to imagine Miss honey in a Paris gown. She said 'but Uncle Gabriel was so mad about Aunt amy, there was no question of her not marrying him at last, money or no money.'
cousin Eva strained her lips tightly over her teeth, let them fly again and leaned over, gripping Miranda's arm. 'what I asked myself, what I asked myself over and over again,' she whispered, 'is, what connection did this man Raymond from calcasieu have with Amy's sudden marriage to gabriel, and what did Amy do to make away with herself so soon afterward? For mark My words, child, Amy wasn't so ill as all that. she'd been flying around for years after the doctors said her lungs were weak. Amy did away with herself to escape some disgrace, some exposure that she faced.'
the beady black eyes glinted; cousin Eva's face was quite frightening, so near and so intent. Miranda wanted to say, 'stop. Let her rest. what harm did she ever do you?' But she was timid and unnerved and deep in her was a horrid fascination with the terrors and the darkness cousin eve had conjured up. What was the end of this story?"

Noon Wine 3stars
This is the story of a farming family. The father is an unmotivated human who complains about his weak wife. One day a Scandinavian man walks up to his farm and asks him for a job. This man does his work so well, that the farmer is able to get ahead little by little.
" 'now I can't give you no dollar a day because ackshally I don't make that much out of it. no sir, we get along on a lot less than a dollar a day, I'd say, if we figure up everything in the long run. now I paid $7 a month to the two n******, three - fifty each, and grub, but what I say is, one Middlin-good white man equals a whole passel of n****** any day in the week, so I'll give you $7 and you eat at the table with us, and you'll be treated like a white man, as the feller says -'
'that's all right,' said Mr helton. 'I take it.'
'Well, now I guess we'll call it a deal, hey?' Mr Thompson jumped up as if he had remembered important business. 'now, you just take hold of that churn and give it a few swings, will you, while I ride to town on a couple little errands. I ain't been able to leave the place all week. I guess you know what to do with butter after you get it, don't you?'
'I know,' said Mr helton without turning his head. 'I know better business.' He had a strange drawling voice, and even when he spoke only two words his voice waved slowly up and down and the emphasis was in the wrong place. Mr Thompson wondered what kind of Foreigner Mr helton could be."

..." 'now of course, if you won't help, I'll have to look around for help somewhere else. It won't look very good to your neighbors that you was harboring an escaped loonatic who killed his own brother, and then you refused to give him up. It will look mighty funny.'
Mr Thompson knew almost before he heard the words that it would look funny. It would put him in a mighty awkward position. He said, 'but I've been trying to tell you all along that the man ain't loony now. He's been perfectly harmless for 9 years. He's – he's –'
Mr Thompson couldn't think how to describe how it was with Mr helton. 'why, he's been like one of the family,' he said, 'the best stand by a man ever had.' Mr Thompson tried to see his way out. it was a fact Mr helton might go loony again any minute, and now this fellow talking around the country would put Mr Thompson in a fix. It was a terrible position. He couldn't think of any way out. 'you're crazy,' Mr Thompson roared suddenly, 'you're the crazy one around here, you're crazier than he ever was! You get off this place or I'll handcuff you and turn you over to the law. you're trespassing' shouted Mr thompson. 'get out of here before I knock you down!'
He took a step towards the fat man, who backed off, shrinking, 'try it, try it, go ahead!' And then something happened that Mr Thompson tried hard afterwards to piece together in his mind, and in fact it never did come straight. He saw the fat man with his long Bowie knife in his hand, he saw Mr helton come around the corner on the run, his long jaw dropped, his arms swinging, his eyes wild. Mr helton came in between them, fist doubled up, then stopped short, glaring at the fat man, his big frame seemed to collapse, he trembled like a shied horse; and then the fat man drove at him, knife in one hand, handcuffs in the other. Mr Thompson saw it coming, he saw the blade going into Mr helton's stomach, he knew he had the ax out of the log in his own hands, felt his arms go up over his head and bring the ax down on Mr Hutch's head as if he were stunning a beef."

Though Mr Thompson wins an acquittal in the case against him, he can't stop the voice in his head that continues to ask the question: what happened? It destroys his life.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider 1star
I hated this story. It's at the beginning of a war, probably world war one because they're talking about a plague that's spreading over the country, and this could be the Spanish flu. A young woman works in a newspaper and meets a young officer soldier who has moved temporarily into her boarding house. Just when they're getting towards falling in love, and he has only 10 days leave left, she falls sick. Like a selfish idiot, she allows him to stay by her side, taking care of her, and when she comes out of the hospital, finds that he has died of the flu.

These three short novels are dark and depressing.

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burritapal | 13 other reviews | Oct 23, 2022 |



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