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Pale Horse, Pale Rider (HBJ Modern Classic) Hardcover – June 18, 1990

4.4 out of 5 stars 27 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews


Contains three short novels, - Old Mortality, a story of race tracks, of the Deep South, of the survival and shattering of a family legend; Noon Wine, Texas and a dairy farm rescued from decay by a man who turns out to be an escaped lunatic from Dakota and of the tragedy that ended it all; Pale Horse, Pale Rider, a mystical story of the narrow ledge between life and death, set at the time of the flu epidemic. Stories which add new laurels to those Miss Porter has already acquired as one of the great stylists of today, in the Katharine Mansfield school. Simplicity, beauty, clarity, distinction and a sense of drama implicit in character and circumstance, mark her work. (Kirkus Reviews ) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Inside Flap

"Most good stories are about the interior of our lives, but Katherine Anne Porter's stories take place there," said Eudora Welty. "They show surface only at her choosing."
   Pale Horse, Pale Rider comprises three of the Pulitzer Prize-winning author's short novels or long stories, as Porter--who didn't hold with the term "novella"--called her pieces. In the masterly "Noon Wine," set on a Texas farm circa 1900, she offers an unforgettable study of evil. According to Reynolds Price the tale "can stand shoulder to shoulder with anything in Tolstoy or Chekhov." Both "Old Mortality" and the title story center on Porter's fictional counterpart, Miranda: a resilient Southern heroine who, as Mary Gordon observed, is in "the precarious position of a woman who must earn her way with no one behind her to break her fall."
  "Many of Katherine Anne Porter's stories are unsurpassed in modern fiction," said Robert Penn Warren. "Miss Porter has the power that Chekhov or Frost or Ibsen, or sometimes Pound, has, the power to make the common thing glow with an Eden-like innocence." And The Saturday Review stated, "Porter moves in the illustrious company headed by Hawthorne, Flaubert, and Henry James."
--The Modern Library has played a
significant role in American cultural life for the better part of a century.
The series was founded in 1917 by
the publishers Boni and Liveright
and eight years later acquired by
Bennett Cerf and Donald Klopfer. It provided the foundation for their next publishing venture, Random House. The Modern Library has been a staple of the American book trade, providing readers with affordable hardbound editons of impor-tant works of literature and thought. For the Modern Library's seventy-fifth anniversary, Random House
redesigned the series, restoring
as its emblem the running torchbearer created by Lucian Bernhard
in 1925 and refurbishing jackets, bindings, and type, as well as inaugurating a new program of selecting titles. The Modern Library continues to provide the world's best books, at the best prices.--With an Introduction by Elizabeth Hardwick. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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Product Details

  • Series: HBJ Modern Classic
  • Hardcover: 216 pages
  • Publisher: Houghton Mifflin Harcourt; Reissue edition (June 18, 1990)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0151707553
  • ISBN-13: 978-0151707553
  • Product Dimensions: 5.3 x 0.7 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 11.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (27 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #260,848 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Hardcover
Katherine Anne Porter displays the human experience with turns of phrase that catch your breath. The awkward spinster cousin blooms "like a dry little plant set out in a gentle rain" when her critical mother leaves the room. A woman delirious with influenza falls into a sleep "that was not sleep but clear evening light in a small green wood..."
I thought Flannery O'Connor had ruined all other southern short fiction writers for me, but Porter meets O'Connor's deft character portraits, with their keen knowledge of mannerisms and their psychological depth, as well as O'Connor's ability to surprise the reader with moments of recognition: Miranda's girlhood experience feels like my girlhood experience, across generations and geography. Even Mr. Thompson's story feels like it could have happened in one's own family, like the story grandparents and great aunts and uncles half-tell and subtly refer to while the turkey roasts in the oven and everyone steals nuts off the pecan pie.
I agree with others who are astonished that this book is not part of the literary canon in the U.S. It is a stunning, gorgeous example of short fiction. With the impenetrable heaps of "literary fiction" from contemporary writers, marketed to ridiculous heights, I'm finding old gems like this one soothing to my constantly inundated reader's mind. Read it. And writers, take note.
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Format: Hardcover
I first read this book about thirty-five years ago, as a young teenager. At the time, I didn't really know what it was about, lacking the historical background to understand World War I, and having no knowledge whatsoever of the widespread influenza epidemic of 1918. Nevertheless, the memory of Porter's shimmering prose somehow stayed with me, leading me to read the story once again, this time as an adult, and to finally comprehend it better. In fact, I have reread it several times over the years, always profoundly moved by the experience. Recently, after the events of September 11, 2001, I found myself thinking again of the story, and hauled it out of the library for still another reading. It is more beautiful and meaningful than ever. It has the powerful force of deeply felt, true experience.
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Format: Hardcover
Katherine Anne Porter writes like a lapidary; each sentence is like a polished jewel, every word is perfect. "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" is a compilation of three novellas: "Old Mortality", seen through the eyes of Maria and Miranda Rhea, two children home for the weekend from their stultifying boarding school, is the tale of the family black sheep, a beautiful young cousin of easy virtue who continues to fascinate and frustrate her extended family long after her early death; "Noon Wine" shows us a Texas family torn apart by the guilt of the father who murdered a man in what may or may not have been self-defense, and "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" brings Miranda back again as a young woman disillusioned too many times, whose relationship with her lover Adam is threatened not only by his impending entry in to combat in World War One, but even more immediately by the specter of the great flu epidemic of 1918 that is sweeping through the population, leaving more death in its wake than any war ever fought. Porter writes sparingly, but she packs a world of emotion and feeling into every paragraph. This relatively short book is one of the giants of American fiction.
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Format: Hardcover
I think the author that Katherine Anne Porter is most often compared to is Thomas Mann. Both wrote their best known work in the novella form and both use a highly distilled prose which is rich in symbols. Death in Venice and Pale Horse Pale Rider(both dealing with plagues of some sort) are two of the best novellas you are likely to come across, both appear in most novella collections(even though Porter didn't much care for that word). Porter evokes another author though as well, Mary Shelley, in Pale Horse Pale Rider. Being a male reader who doesn't read a lot of female authors I am always struck by something in authors like Dickinson and Woolf and Porter and Plath which is that distanced perspective, the writing seeming to come from somewhere outside of life, real life being only a memory. This may be a personal point of view only but in Pale Horse the main character Miranda, even before the epidemic hits, seems the perfect example of this phenomenon as she seems not to very much want to participate in the life around her. She may be tempted into something resembling life by her lover Adam but still she seems to be sleepwalking. So it is not all that surprising that when death does enter her chamber so to speak it is received as not an altogether unwelcome guest. Miranda's dream or vision is so well written and the pace of it so well sustained throughout that you feel you have accompanied her through it. One of those sequences you never quite forget. The coming to life again segment(Shelley)is also quite astonishing and strangely, eerily beautiful. The other two tales are good too but this is the one you will remember. There are many great romantic and symbolist(especially) paintings that you will feel you understand or have a strange communion with after having read this.
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