Katherine Anne Porter
May 15, 1890–September 18, 1980
Critics call Texas-born writer Katherine Anne Porter a “poet of the story.” Her carefully crafted short fiction earned her the highest acclaim, including the Pulitzer Prize and the National Book Award.
Porter was born in 1890 in Indian Creek to a family of modest means. As an adult, she lived for several years in Mexico, and later at points throughout the U.S. and Europe. But her most accomplished stories spring from her childhood in central Texas—what she once called her “native land of the heart.”
In masterpieces such as “The Old Order” and “Noon Wine,” Porter renders the turbulent interior lives of her characters with precise, translucent prose. Betrayal and self-delusion are common themes. In the story “Old Mortality,” the young heroine Miranda Gay shakes off “the legend of the past,” resolving to make “her own discoveries.” Yet the whole of Porter’s fiction emphasizes how difficult self-knowledge is to achieve.
When asked whether her fiction was autobiographical, Porter explained that her stories were “true in the way that a work of fiction should be true, created out of all the scattered particles of life I was able to absorb and combine and shape into new being.”
The Katherine Anne Porter House, located in Kyle, Texas. © 2009 Larry D. Moore
In 2002, First Lady Laura Bush dedicated Porter’s childhood home in Kyle as a National Literary Landmark. The home is now a thriving literary center operated by Texas State University.
Als, Hilton. “Enameled Lady: How Katherine Anne Porter Perfected Herself.” The New Yorker, April 20, 2009.
Busby, Mark and Dick Heaberlin, eds. From Texas to the World and Back: Essays on the Journeys of Katherine Anne Porter. Fort Worth: TCU Press, 2001.
Davis, Barbara Thompson. “The Art of Fiction.” Interview with Katherine Anne Porter. Paris Review 29 (1963). http://www.theparisreview.org/interviews/4569/the-art-of-fiction-no-29-katherine-anne-porter
Givner, Joan. Katherine Anne Porter: A Life. Revised edition. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1991.
Grimes, Tom. “Courting Miss Porter.” Tin House 19 (summer 2004).
Johnston, Laurie Johnston. “Katherine Anne Porter Dies at 90; Won a Pulitzer for Short Stories,” The New York Times 19 September 1980: A1.
Machann, Clinton and William Bedford Clark. Katherine Anne Porter and Texas: An Uneasy Relationship. College Station: Texas A & M University Press, 1990.
Moss, Howard. “A Poet of the Story,” The New York Times 12 September 1965: BR1.
Stout, Janis P. “Katherine Anne Porter.” In Texas Women Writers: A Tradition of Their Own, edited by Sylvia Ann Grider and Lou Halsell Rodenberger. College Station: Texas A & M University Press: 124–133.
Stout, Janis P. Katherine Anne Porter: A Sense of the Times. Charlottesville: University Press of Virginia, 1995.
Unrue, Darlene Harbour, ed. Critical Essays on Katherine Anne Porter. New York: G. K. Hall & Co., 1997.
Unrue, Darlene Harbour. Katherine Anne Porter: The Life of an Artist. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2005.
Unrue, Darlene Harbour, ed. Katherine Anne Porter Remembered. Tuscaloosa: University of Alabama Press, 2010.
This article originally aired August 31, 2012.