Katherine Anne Porter: A Sense of the Times

Janis P. Stout, Author
Janis P. Stout, Author University of Virginia Press $39.5 (381p) ISBN 978-0-8139-1568-5
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In this engrossing scholarly study, Stout, an English professor at Texas A&M and a novelist (A Family Likeness), emphasizes the historical context of Porter's writing. A consummate stylist noted for the outstanding craftsmanship with which she shaped short stories (e.g., ``Pale Horse, Pal Rider''), Porter (1890-1980) worked so slowly that it took her 25 years to complete a major novel (Ship of Fools). Stout, drawing on the Texas-raised Porter's letters, describes the author as a difficult and conflicted woman. She was a Communist during the 1920s but later embraced conservative attitudes. Without excusing Porter's virulent racism (she called Martin Luther King Jr. an ``agitator'' who led a ``gang of thugs and hoodlums''), Stout attributes most of it to her upbringing, noting also that Porter intensely disliked homosexuals and feminists and was frequently unkind to her four husbands and other lovers. Stout treats Porter not as an intellectual but as a writer devoted to her work, who drew on her past to create artful fiction. Photos not seen by PW. (June)
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