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Katherine Anne Porter Biography

(1890–1980), Ship of Fools, Flowering Judas, The Leaning Tower

American fiction writer, born in Indian Creek, Texas. Though her output was slim, Porter is widely acclaimed as one of the finest American prose stylists of her generation. Porter lived a richly picaresque life that has become the stuff of legend, even though she herself took the view that writers' biographies are of little importance. She supported herself as an entertainer in Texas, worked as a bit-part film actress in Chicago, and studied art in Mexico. She eloped from school at the age of 16 and was divorced at 19; had a tragic love affair, which provided a background for her story ‘Pale Horse, Pale Rider’, in her twenties; and in later life was twice more married. Until the publication of her novel Ship of Fools (1962), which she spent twenty years writing, she was best known as the author of the short-story volumes Flowering Judas (1930), The Leaning Tower (1944), and The Old Order: Stories of the South (1944), and the three novellas of Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939). Influenced by the James Joyce of Dubliners and the stories of Katherine Mansfield, Porter achieved a subtlety and suggestiveness rarely equalled in short fiction. As with Faulkner, the ‘Old South’ and its replacement by new social forces provided the subject matter for much of her finest work. Moral concerns are always to the fore in her fiction, particularly the conflicts between commitment and detachment, and nature and civilization. Her masterpiece Ship of Fools is a moral allegory, in which the passengers of a ship, journeying from Mexico to Germany in the early 1930s, provide a microcosm of the many types that make up the human race. Porter's other works include Hacienda: A Story of Mexico (1934), and an account of the notorious Sacco–Vanzetti case entitled The Never-Ending Wrong (1977). Her Collected Stories (1965) added some new pieces to her previously published work; a volume of Collected Essays appeared in 1970.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Ellis’ [Edith Mary Pargeter] ‘Peters Biography to Portrait of Dora (Portrait de Dora)