Katherine Anne Porter
Katherine Anne Porter (May 15, 1890– September 18, 1980), was an American author and journalist best known for her short stories and her masterwork, Ship of Fools. 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 became, 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 that year overall. Set before the start of World War II, it 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.
More about Katherine Anne Porter on this site
- 6 Quick Writing Tips from Katherine Anne Porter
- Katherine Anne Porter at Work
- Inspiration: You Can’t Have it All
- Dear Literary Ladies: How can I develop a distinctive writing style?
- Dear Literary Ladies: Is it possible to write well if one is a “starving artist?”
- Ship of Fools
- ‘Flowering Judas’
- The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter
- The Old Order: Stories of the South
- Pale Horse, Pale Rider
- Uncollected Early Prose of Katherine Anne Porter
Autobiographies and Biographies about Katherine Anne Porter
Articles, News, Etc.
Visit the Katherine Anne Porter Center and Room
- Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center – Kyle, TX
- Katherine Anne Porter Room – University of Maryland, College Park, MD
- Katherine Anne Porter Collection – Princeton University Library, Princeton, NJ
Katherine Anne Porter Quotes
“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 of 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)
“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)
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