KATHERINE ANNE PORTER: CONVERSATIONS by Joan--Ed. Givner

KATHERINE ANNE PORTER: CONVERSATIONS

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KIRKUS REVIEW

Selective but full sampling of Porter's voice during 24 interviews and articles done between 1916 and 1976, as edited by Givner, author of Katherine Anne Porter.' A Life. In these interviews, the embroidered facts of Porter's life come through as she would like them to be remembered. She forgets husbands (""I have no hidden marriages. They just escape my mind""), blithely drops four years from her age, invents a Catholic childhood upbringing with a convent education, reveals some distinguished new ancestors, hides her baptismal name and, in short, as Givner warns us, is ""incapable of even approaching. . .sincere truthtelling."" For that, one must go to Givner's biography. Her own reporting of Porter's homecoming to Brownwood, Texas, on her 86th birthday is the one really moving piece in the book. While it is good to have this collection, be warned that KAP in conversation is not KAP the wondrous writer--a full book of her chats with reporters, even brilliant reporters, is not unalloyed pleasure. The disappointment herein is not just in the forgivable (and skimmable) repetitions and their sometimes naughty variations. It's that KAP's growing grande dame aspirations seem foolish and her opinions not all that interesting, despite her prickly way of speaking them. Sometimes she speaks well indeed, but on a panel of Southern writers with Flannery O'Connor, Caroline Gordon and others, it is young O'Connor whose plain-as-flapjacks voice steals the day with wit and ideas. The solidest interview here is the Paris Review's with Barbara Thompson. In more than one passage during these pieces, KAP fairly beheads F. Scott Fitzgerald, scorning him repeatedly: ""An artist has no right to have such feelings about those cheap, nasty, rich people he was so afraid of!"" A strangely warm anecdote features her at 83 having her own Mexican coffin built just the way she wanted it, then storing it in her hall closet until needed. Best when KAP's talking about writing--though even on this holy subject she lies through her teeth in describing her own methods.

Pub Date: March 1st, 1987
ISBN: 0878052666
Publisher: Univ. of Mississippi Press