Short Stories All the Time

My photo
... a few of my thoughts about 900, mostly contemporary, short stories.
Showing posts with label Porter. Show all posts
Showing posts with label Porter. Show all posts

29 January, 2017

Katherine Anne Porter, "Pale Horse, Pale Rider"

The story is set during the influenza epidemic during WWI, almost exactly 100 years ago and I wonder what, if anything is different today. The main character, Miranda, writes theater reviews for the Blue Mountain News in Denver, "a plateau a mile high." She meets Adam Barclay, Second Lieutenant, who is waiting to be shipped out. They date. She comes down with influenza; everyone is dying; Adam takes care of her. Miranda survives. Adam does not.

poster from WWI
The story begins with Miranda hallucinating and sick in bed and the story ends with her recovering and getting out of bed. What is so wonderful about the story is the way Katherine Anne Porter covers the details of the mindsets of the civilians and the servicemen and women. The various attitudes about war. The hallucinations of a very sick person. The attitudes of a young man waiting to go off to war and his assumption that he'll not make it home alive. "...he smoked also continually...'does it matter so much if you're going to war, anyway?'" Also, civic and social life continues, people go to the theater, actors are upset with bad reviews, people gossip, government gets weird, people worry about their finances, some people become nationalistic.

I decided to pull this story from my shelf when I read an article about Jane Bowles, "She Wrote Like a Colt .45," in the Wall Street Journal, January 28-29, 2017. "After she read Katherine Anne Porter's story "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," she wrote him [Paul Bowles] that she found it so sad and depressing that 'it has completely ruined my evening,' but she doesn't really like it, which puzzles her. 'I keep forgetting what writing is supposed to be anyway,' she says and asks him to write back and explain to her what it means."


"In the street, they lit their cigarettes and walked slowly as always. 'Just another nasty old man who would like to see the young ones killed,' said Miranda in a low voice; 'the tom-cats try to eat the little tom-kittens, you know. They don't fool you really, do they, Adam?'"

"The young people were talking like that about the business by then. They felt they were seeing pretty clearly through that game. She went on, 'I hate these potbellied baldheads, too fat, too old, too cowardly, to go to war themselves, they know they're safe; it's you they are sending instead--'"

"'...the worst of war is the fear and suspicion and the awful expression in all the eyes you meet . . . as if they had pulled down the shutters over their minds and their hearts and were peering out at you, ready to leap if you make one gesture or say one word they do not understand instantly.'"

30 November, 2013

Katherine Anne Porter, "Flowering Judas"

In my 1979 edition of The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, there is a quote by V. S. Pritchett I love on the back cover. "She is an important writer in the genre because she solves the essential problem: how to satisfy exhaustively in writing briefly."

"Flowering Judas" is written in present tense. In the Paris Review the tense is mentioned as historical present. The viewpoint, I would say, is omniscient, or a limited omniscient which could also be called limited third-person shifting. I would call it more omniscient because sometimes a more omnipresent POV knows people better than they know themselves as in "Braggioni loves himself with such tenderness and amplitude and eternal charity…"

The story is more telling than showing. Laura, a twenty-two year old gringita in Mexico, in the 1920's, teaching young children and transporting messages between political activists and prisoners in the aftermath of the Mexican Revolution. The theme of the story seems to be betrayal to oneself as well as to others. Laura seems to try to convince herself of the type of person she is but actually she just uses the word no and since she follows the word no, she thinks that she is true to herself. This phrase sums up how she is living her life, "…she must resist tenaciously without appearing to resist…"

Porter's collection, Flowering Judas, in which the short story of the same name is included, was first  published in 1930. Porter was born in 1890 and died in 1980. I found ...

"'Flowering Judas' was written in New York City in December 1929. It was published in 1930 in Hound and Horn, a quarterly publication founded in 1927 by Harvard University students, and in a book collection of Porter's works."

on the website:

Paris Review, interview, Katherine Anne Porter, The Art of Fiction No. 29
Interviewed by Barbara Thompson Davis
"Well, in the vision of death at the end of “Flowering Judas” I knew the real ending—that she was not going to be able to face her life, what she’d done. And I knew that the vengeful spirit was going to come in a dream to tow her away into death, but I didn’t know until I’d written it that she was going to wake up saying, “No!” and be afraid to go to sleep again."

Texas State Historical Association page about Porter