For indispensable reporting on the coronavirus crisis and more, subscribe to Mother Jones’ newsletters.One hundred thirty years ago, on May 15, 1890, Katherine Anne Porter—Texan, journalist, novelist—was born.
Her generation lived through many things, and yet American fiction from her peers—perhaps a bit exhausted from having to chronicle World War I—does not mention (at least explicitly) the 1918 influenza epidemic much. Her collection of three short novels, Pale Horse, Pale Rider, is the most famous example. For some readers, ordering books might be a challenge. Or maybe your local library and stores are simply out of stock. Way back in 2006, Alice McDermott bemoaned the lack of Porter, and the “low demand” sticker taped to a copy of one of her books.
Don’t fret. The New York Review of Books has helpfully uploaded an excerpt to its website. It even has a nice paragraph introduction from Elizabeth Hardwick on Porter’s “clear, fluent, almost untroubled” style. Oh, also don’t fret: The excerpt ends on a chipper note. The last paragraph begins, “No more war, no more plague…”
Perhaps put on the tunes of another birthday haver: Brian Eno. I recommend sinking into Porter’s writing with his heavenly, ambient “Reflection.”