Picks and Pans Review: Katherine Anne Porter: a Life

updated 12/20/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

originally published 12/20/1982 AT 01:00 AM EST

by Joan Givner

The author of this engrossing biography had the cooperation of Porter's family. This was vital since during her lifetime the author of Pale Horse, Pale Rider and Ship of Fools had "edited the story of her life as she might have shaped one of her short stories, rejecting certain experiences which she felt should not have happened...and substituting others which seemed more appropriate." Porter was a fantastically liberated woman for her time, or any other. She acted in early movies, had innumerable lovers and married four times. She was in Mexico during its big revolution, in Germany as Hitler was gathering power, in Greenwich Village when it was the place for writers to be. At 60, she fell in love with William Goyen, a much younger writer. He recalls that "she drank a great deal and...would act the role of a Mae West-like seductress." In her 80s she went to Cape Canaveral to cover a moon mission for Playboy. Callie Porter's childhood was darkened by rural poverty and the death of her mother. Later she renamed herself and pretended that she had an elegant plantation past. Porter herself picked Givner, a University of Regina (Saskatchewan) English professor, to do this biography. It was an inspired choice. (Simon and Schuster, $19.95)

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