All of these words describe the passionate and evanescent Katherine Anne Porter. Porter's early life was marked by loss and turbulence. Her mother died when she was only two, and her father was consistently absent. Raised mostly by her grandmother, Porter's desire to escape her home life probably contributed to her decision to marry when she was only 15. After a nine-year marriage, a near-death bout with tuberculosis and later influenza, and a move from her native Texas to Chicago, Porter finally moved to New York's Greenwich Village where she began to focus on writing fiction.
Over the course of her life she wrote twenty-seven stories and short novels but only one full-length novel. Additionally, she published several other collections of assorted stories and essays and book reviews. Although she was not one of America's most prolific writers, her mark on the literary world is unmistakable. Bold, fresh, and always elegant, Porter's zest for life and willingness to tackle interesting issues still makes her one of the most treasured women in American literature.
Her writing took her all over the world, from Mexico to Bermuda, but Porter eventually settled in Maryland. This is where she spent the most years of her life. In the Washington area, on P street in Georgetown, Porter finished her most popular work (and only novel) Ship of Fools. This book brought her extraordinary success and fame, and as a result of her new wealth she purchased a mansion in Prince George's County. Ship of Fools was made into a film in 1965, only three years after its original publication. That same year, The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter was published and subsequently received a Pulitzer Prize.
Two Maryland colleges awarded Porter honorary degrees -- the College of Notre Dame of Maryland, located in Northern Baltimore, and the University of Maryland, College Park. As Porter's health declined she decided to donate her papers and certain personal effects to the University of Maryland, College Park. To house these treasured items the University created the Katherine Anne Porter room which was dedicated in 1968. Porter moved to College Park, and at the age of 90, died a few miles away in the Carriage Hill Nursing Center in Silver Spring, Maryland.
Places of Interest:
- The College of Notre Dame of Maryland, 4701 N. Charles Street.
- PBS: www.pbs.org/wnet/americanmasters/database/porter_k.html
- University of Maryland: http://www.lib.umd.edu
- Frank Shivers: Maryland Wits and Baltimore Bards: A Literary History with Notes on Washington Writers