Katherine Anne Porter (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
One of the chief obstacles facing a biographer of Katherine Anne Porter is separating fact from fiction. Porter had a lifelong tendency to romanticize, to fantasize, to transfer experiences or circumstances of other people to herself, to mislead, to falsify, and sometimes even to lie outright. Perhaps, as the years passed, she may have forgotten what was the truth about many events in her earlier life.
Joan Givner, Porter’s chosen biographer, remarks, “She edited the story of her life as she might have shaped one of her short stories.” She became angry when critics erred about “facts” and even more so when she was confronted with the actual record which proved her own distortion. Yet, astonishingly, says Givner, Porter was eager to “achieve immortality by having the story of her life told,” and she carefully preserved many of the materials that her future biographer would need.
Givner’s portrait of Porter includes blemishes that might have infuriated the living subject. However, Givner has balanced objectively Porter’s charm with her faults, her genius with her pettiness, and her accomplishments with her failures in this story of the long life of one of America’s most gifted writers of fiction. Although Givner devotes some critical attention to Porter’s writings, the emphasis is properly on the character and the life. Since the life contributed so much to the writings, though, Givner frequently cites and...
(The entire section is 1850 words.)
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Bibliography (Magill's Literary Annual 1983)
America. CXLVIII, February 19, 1983.
The Atlantic. CCL, December, 1982, p. 105.
Library Journal. CVII, November 15, 1982, p. 2177.
Ms. XI, November, 1982, p. 32.
National Review. XXXIV, December 10, 1982, p. 1559.
The New Republic. CLXXXVII, November 22, 1982, p. 30.
New York Review of Books. XXIX, January 20, 1983, p. 13.
The New York Times Book Review. LXXXVII, November 7, 1982, p. 3.
Time. CXX, December 6, 1982, p. 92.
(The entire section is 49 words.)