Porter, Katherine Anne

Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter (1890-1980), a writer from the South, lived her life according to what she believed in and learned early on about the stark realities of life. She spent her early years working as a teacher of drama, dance and song to help support her and her father. These misfortunes are what made Porter the amazing writer that she is, focusing on themes of death, mistrust and depraved human behavior. In 1962 she published Ship of Fools, which took her 20 years to write. Critical opinions were mixed although it was the best selling novel of her career and of 1962. It is set before the start of World War II and follows the voyage of a group of passengers on their way from Mexico to Europe.

Porter often took many, many years after events to write about and analyze it fully, using her own life as a base for her work. Her writing was a way to face questions that were left unanswered in her own life, giving her work a passionate, realistic and harsh voice. In 1966 Porter won a Pulitzer Prize, the Gold Medal for Fiction and the National Book Award for The Collected Stories, published in 1965.

Major Works

Autobiographies and Biographies about Katherine Anne Porter

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Katherine Anne Porter Quotes

“The past is never where you think you left it.”

“I get so tired of moral bookkeeping.”

“Most people won’t realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.”

“Death always leaves one singer in mourn.” (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1939)

“If I didn’t know the ending of a story, I wouldn’t begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph first, and then I go back and work towards it. I know where I’m going. I know what my goal is. And how I get there is God’s grace.”

“Could she fall so low? No, there were limits, and she believed she still knew where some of them were.” (Ship of Fools, 1962)

“The road to death is a long march beset with all evils, and the heart fails little by little at each new terror, the bones rebel at each step, the mind sets up its own bitter resistance and to what end? The barriers sink one by one, and no covering of the eyes shuts out the landscape of disaster, nor the sight of crimes committed there.” (Pale Horse, Pale Rider, 1939)

“A story is like something you wind out of yourself. Like a spider, it is a web you weave, and you love your story like a child.”

“There seems to be a kind of order in the universe…in the movement of the stars and the turning of the Earth and the changing of the seasons. But human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist is to take these handfuls of confusion and disparate things, things that seem to be irreconcilable, and put them together in a frame to give them some kind of shape and meaning.”

“I finished the thing, but I think I sprained my soul. I spent 15 years wandering about, weighed horribly with masses of paper and little else. Yet for this vocation of writing I was and am willing to die, and I consider very few things pf the slightest importance.” (On Ship of Fools, May 15, 1890)

“A novel is really life a symphony where instrument after instrument has to come in at its own time.”

“In spite of all the poetry, all the philosophy to the contrary, we are not really masters of our fate.”

“One of the marks of a gift is to is to have the courage of it.”

“The real sin against life is to abuse and destroy beauty, even one’s own — even more, one’s own, for that has been put in our care and we are responsible for its well-being.”

“Adventure is something you seek for pleasure or even for profit…but experience is what really happens to you in the long run, the truth that finally overtakes you.”

“I shall try to tell the truth, but the result will be fiction.”

“Everyone takes his stance, asserts his own right and feelings, mistaking the motives of others, and his own.”

“Love must be learned and learned again; There is no end.”

“Trust your happiness and the richness of your life at this moment. It is as true and as much yours as anything else that ever happened to you.” (Letters of Katherine Anne Porter, 1990)

“God does not know whether a skin is black or white, He only sees souls.” (The Collected Stories, 1965)

“…the thought of him was a smoky cloud from hell that moved and crept in her head.” (The Collected Stories, 1965)

“You waste life when you waste good food.” (The Collected Stories, 1965)

“At that time I was too young for some of the troubles I was having, and I had not yet learned what to do with them. It no longer can matter what kind of troubles they were, or what finally became of them, though all my tradition, background, and training had taught me unanswerably that no one except a coward ever runs away from anything. What nonsense! They should have taught me the difference between courage and foolhardiness, instead of leaving me to find it out for myself. I learned finally that if I still had the sense I was born with, I would take off like a deer at the first warning of certain dangers.”

“The whole effort for the past one hundred years has been to remove the moral responsibility from the individual and make him blame his own human wickedness on his society, but he helps to make his society, you see, and he will not take his responsibility for his part in it.” (Katherine Anne Porter Conversations, 1987)

“It is a simple truth that the human mind can face better the most oppressive government, the most rigid restrictions, than the awful prospect of a lawless, frontierless world. Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity; it brings out the old raiding, oppressing, murderous instincts; the rage for revenge, for power, the lust for bloodshed. The longing for freedom takes the form of crushing the enemy- there is always the enemy!- into the earth; and where and who is the enemy if there is no visible establishment to attack, to destroy with blood and fire? Remember all that oratory when freedom is threatened again. Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty.” (The Never-Ending Wrong, 1977)

 

Categories : Author biography

Comments

  1. Ricki says:

    Love it! I haven’t thought about Porter in such a long time. . . thanks for reminding me how much I love her work. She was quite the weaver of stories, even off the page!

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