Texas Originals

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."

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.

For More about Katherine Anne Porter

Porter's work appears in multiple editions and anthologies. For readers new to her work, the Library of America's Collected Stories and Other Writings is a good place to begin. This volume includes the stories that appeared in The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter, as well as a selection of reviews, essays, and travel pieces from throughout her career. The Library of America site features an interview with Darlene Harbour Unrue, who edited the volume and has published a number of books on Porter's life and career.

The University of Maryland Libraries house the Katherine Anne Porter papers, 1842–1980. The collection includes correspondence, notes, and drafts for her works, publications, legal documents, and financial records. It also includes over 1,500 photographs from her personal collection, dating from the 1890s to 1979.

Porter's childhood home in Kyle is now the Katherine Anne Porter Literary Center, administered by Texas State University-San Marcos. The center hosts several readings each year by visiting writers.

In 2004, Texas State faculty member Tom Grimes published an essay titled "Courting Miss Porter" describing his efforts to raise funds for the restoration of the Porter house.

Selected Bibliography

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: Texas Christian University Press, 2001.

Davis, Barbara Thompson. "The Art of Fiction." Interview with Katherine Anne Porter. Paris Review 29 (1963).

DeMouy, Jane. Katherine Anne Porter's Women: The Eye of Her Fiction. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1983.

Givner, Joan. Katherine Anne Porter: A Life. Revised edition. Athens and London: The University of Georgia Press, 1991.

Givner, Joan. "Porter, Katherine Anne." Handbook of Texas Online. Accessed July 21, 2014.

Hendrick, George. Katherine Anne Porter. New York: Twayne, 1965.

Johnston, Laurie. "Katherine Anne Porter Dies at 90; Won a Pulitzer for Short Stories." New York Times, September 19, 1980.

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.” New York Times, September 12, 1965.

Hartley, Lodwick and George Core. Katherine Anne Porter: A Critical Symposium. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1969.

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, 1997: 124–33.

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.

Unrue, Darlene Harbour. Truth and Vision in Katherine Anne Porter's Fiction. Athens: University of Georgia Press, 1985.

Walsh, Thomas F. Katherine Anne Porter and Mexico: The Illusion of Eden. Austin: University of Texas Press, 1992.

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Portrait of Katherine Anne Porter. Courtesy of the Papers of Katherine Anne Porter, Special Collections, University of Maryland Libraries.
The Katherine Anne Porter House in Kyle. Photo by Larry D. Moore.
Katherine Anne Porter, October 23, 1958. Courtesy of the Photography Collection, Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center, The University of Texas at Austin.
First edition of Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Three Short Novels, published by Harcourt, Brace and Company in 1939.