Picks and Pans Review: Conversations with Katherine Anne Porter

updated 08/17/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

originally published 08/17/1981 AT 01:00 AM EDT

by Enrique Hank Lopez

For her era, she was a liberated woman. To escape from a poor Texas farm, she eloped at 16. The experience left her frigid, she said later, although she married again, twice, and had many affairs. Porter was a critic for a Denver newspaper, left for Greenwich Village where she socialized with all the name writers of the '20s, then moved to Mexico where her friends were revolutionaries. "I don't like gloomy sinners," she said, "but the merry ones charm me." She eked out a living from journalism—her fiction never supported her until the success of Ship of Fools in 1962, when she was 72. Lopez, a lawyer and longtime friend from her days in Mexico, taped the conversations that make up most of this book. Porter, who died in 1980, was outspokenly critical of Gertrude Stein, for instance, and once wanted to pull Norman Mailer's hair. Readers who admire Pale Horse, Pale Rider as one of our time's finest fictions will overlook the unevenness in Lopez's writing. Porter lived her most vivid fiction—and then some. (Little, Brown, $14.95)

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