About Katherine Anne Porter | American Masters – PBS
When Katherine Anne Porter left her home state of Texas for New York, she brought with her the tough side of a trailblazer from the West. passionate and intelligent, it was this edge more than anything else that made her famous as a writer. Despite her self-imposed exile from her homeland and her southern origins, Porter used this distance as a means to come to terms with the memories she sought to escape from.
Born in India Creek, Texas in 1890, Katherine Anne Porter lost her mother at the age of two. Raised primarily by her paternal grandmother, Porter became strong and self-sufficient at a young age. Both the loss of her mother and the subsequent abandonment of her father had a lasting effect on Porter, making her incredibly attentive to the harsh realities of human endeavor.
At fifteen, she married John Henry Koontz, the first of four husbands. throughout her life she would continue to have love affairs punctuated by dramatic and vicious breakups. She spent her first twenty years moving from Texas to Chicago and back, working as an actress, singer, and later, a secretary. In 1917, after a battle with tuberculosis, Ella Porter Ella accepted a job as a gossip columnist for the Fort Worth Critic. Two years later she moved to Greenwich Village, where she began to work seriously as a fiction writer.
relying on journalism and pirate writing, porter published his first story in century magazine. Although the century provided him with a handsome sum for the story, Porter would rarely return to popular magazine publishing, choosing instead the freedom of small magazines. A perfectionist concerned with controlling every word of her stories, Porter earned a name for her impeccable prose. Often concerned with themes of justice, betrayal, and the unforgiving nature of the human race, Porter’s writings occupied the space where the personal and the political meet.
In 1930 Harcourt Brace published his first book, Judas in Bloom. although it was a masterful collection of short stories, it had only modest sales. It wasn’t until almost ten years later that she published her second book, a collection of three novellas, Pale Horse, Pale Rider. she followed this up in 1944 with the leaning tower and other stories. By being openly concerned with the rise of Nazism, Porter was able to further investigate the dark side of the average person. however, it wasn’t until almost twenty years later that she was able to address the issue in greater depth.
The Ship of Fools (1962), was Porter’s first and only novel. Dealing with the lives of a diverse and international group of travelers, the book became an instant hit. Based in part on a trip to Germany thirty years earlier, The Ship of Fools attacked the weakness of a society that could allow World War II. After 1962, Porter wrote very little, although four years later he won a Pulitzer Prize for his collected stories.
In 1977, fifty years after his protest at the Sacco and Vanzetti trial, Porter wrote an account of the event titled The Endless Evil. three years later she died at the age of ninety. Outliving most of her contemporaries, the strong-willed porter left behind a lean but insightful body of work. Her impeccable pen and her harsh criticism of not only her own time, but also human society, made Porter an important voice in 20th-century American literature.