Sunday, May 15, 2016

Katherine Anne Porter: Of Ships And Fools And Passing In The Night

The American writer, journalist and activist, Katherine Anne Porter, was born on this day in 1890 in the west-central Texas town of Indian Creek. She led an often troubled yet exciting and eccentric life. By the age of forty she was an acclaimed and widely read author but it took another thirty years and the publication of her novel, Ship of Fools, before she found financial security in her craft.

In the mid-1960's the University of Maryland awarded Porter an honorary degree of Doctor of Humane Letters. As a result of the association that developed between her and the university she moved many treasured personal possessions and her papers to the school to be housed in the Katherine Anne Porter Room, at that time located in McKeldin Library.   

For a biographical sketch illustrating her place in American literary history go here.

Readers interested in Porter as a writer will enjoy this 1963 Paris Review interview conducted as part of their Art of Fiction series.

On a personal note: Back in 1968 I spent about two weeks doing research in special collections on the top floor of McKeldin Library at Maryland.  At the elevator and in the hallways I kept meeting this small, elderly, white-haired woman with a jovial smile and friendly conversational attitude. She seemed far too helpful to be a typical university librarian.  Years later I read how much Porter loved the academic setting and interacting with students, learning about them, their studies, and their plans for the future. It wasn't long before the realization hit that my "little old librarian" was none other than Katherine Anne Porter. Oh to have those two weeks back. This time I'd ask the questions.


Photos and Illustrations:

Katherine Anne Porter,

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