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Katherine Anne Porter: A Life Hardcover – November 23, 1982


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Product Details

  • Hardcover: 572 pages
  • Publisher: Simon & Schuster; First Edition edition (November 23, 1982)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0671432079
  • ISBN-13: 978-0671432072
  • Product Dimensions: 9.4 x 5.9 x 1.7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 2 pounds
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #2,471,486 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"This is the story of how a renowned American writer made up a grand old-South lineage for herself and otherwise mythologized her life. . . . In this new edition, the author has uncovered more details about such matters as her subject's bout with tuberculosis, which she now regards as 'crucial to the emergence of Porter as an artist.'"--Washington Post


"Givner's most dramatic feat is to explode the many legends invented by Porter. . . . But the unvarnished truth only sharpens one's sense of Porter's accomplishment."--New York Review of Books


"There were a multiplicity of Katherine Anne Porters, and thankfully Joan Givner has refrained from reducing them to one. With patience and understanding, she presents this woman as the 'aristocratic first lady of American letters, linguist, musician, femme fatale, and raconteur,' destined perhaps for rediscovery by a new generation of readers."--Christian Science Monitor


"Long before her death in 1980, Porter had earned the reputation of being a fine, though maddeningly slow, writer and the greatest female liar of the century. . . . Givner's admirable biography weaves together the facts of Porter's deliberately extravagant, sometimes sordid life."--Atlantic Monthly


"The reflection Joan Givner's book chiefly prompts is wonder at the way in which such a disordered, tempestuous, hard-drinking, often frustrated life produced so assured and serene an art."--Times Literary Supplement


"It remains the only definitive work on Porter's life, and I cannot imagine any Porter scholar nowadays who does not consult it routinely."--Darlene Harbour Unrue
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

About the Author

Joan Givner is the author of biographies, essays, and fiction. Her work includes Katherine Anne Porter: A Life (Georgia) and Katherine Anne Porter Conversations. A native of England now living in Canada, Givner taught English literature at the University of Regina before retiring to British Columbia.
--This text refers to the Paperback edition.

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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By Bill Blazajowski on April 11, 2000
Format: Paperback
When reading Katherine Anne Porter's fiction, we cannot help but acknowledge that she was a consummate stylist. We marvel at her narrative voice as she fleshes out characters such as Miranda Gay, Maria Concepcion, or Granny Weatherall. Unfortunately, that gift all too easily spilled over into the stories Porter told about herself as well. With her talent, the temptation must have been too great not to create an elaborate fiction of her past. She dreamt up an antebellum lineage that she thought might display the origin of her abilities properly. Joan Givner's unenviable task was to pop Porter's life out of that gilded frame and discover and examine what hid beneath its edges. Givner unearths facts about Porter's life that the writer continually reworked and recast into ever more gracious forms when asked about her private life. Her biography reveals the extent to which Porter's artistic genius permeated her own feats of self-promotion. Porter rarely denied misleading facts about her upbringing and personal relationships, and would eagerly assent to half-truths or outright lies that might bolster her southern aristocratic pretensions. Clothed in haute couture, Porter also began to adopt the world-weary persona of a sophisticated artist after she became an established writer. Givner skillfully and sympathetically deconstructs each of these defenses. Porter spent great effort erecting them in order to distance interviewers and readers from her own difficult childhood and the actual source material of her fiction. At arm's length, she kept life from disturbing the art that also took her great pains (and a considerable amount of time) to create. Through her meticulous research and attention to detail, Givner, by contrast, supplies her own readers with a study that is unflinchingly honest.Read more ›
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10 of 10 people found the following review helpful By Tee on May 9, 2005
Format: Paperback
Katherine Anne Porter was as fascinating a character as any fictional work she ever created. Self-educated, she wrote some of the most complex and well-crafted short stories of her time and concocted a personal image of glamour and refinement despite her very modest origins. As multi-married as a movie queen, she bewitched dozens of men, marrying some of them decades her junior. Hindsight has withered the illusion of her physical appeal, despite all the talk of her beauty, her photographs to contemporary non-bewitched eyes reveal a woman deep into middle age despite her chic poses. Past forty when she burst on to the literary scene in the 1930's, Porter live in genteel poverty until she hit the jackpot in her seventies with epic novel A SHIP OF FOOLS earning her millions. She would go on for almost another two decades before she died at age 90 in 1980. Sharply opinionated and seemingly easy to anger, Porter nevertheless could be a great friend as she was to Robert Penn Warren and the novice Eudora Welty. This book is a fascinating, detailed account of her long life. Author Givner has since taken a more negative personal view of Porter in other works, fortunately here she seems to admire this woman who carved a major place in the world of letters for herself from very humble beginnings.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful By Rebecca on September 27, 2012
Format: Paperback Verified Purchase
There is something mysterious about Katherine Anne Porter even after reading this wonderful biography of her. On one hand, she doesn't seem like a serious writer of that era, doesn't seem destined to be a writer as many seem, more like she fell into it a late, and one feels she could have just as easily lived as she was raised, stuck poor in rural Texas. And she doesn't really even accomplish that much in writing, mainly now known for her hit 'Ship of Fools', but one sees that her themes and thoughts are quite deep and the excerpts from her letters and writing show what an interesting and deep thinker she was about life, that her perspective and thoughts are provoking and satisfying to read, she is able to capture and put into words ideas that often remain unformed. Highly recommend.
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