Sunday, September 15, 2013

For Porter, Two Prizes

Katherine Anne Porter grew up in Texas and is best known for her short stories, the collection of which was nominated for both the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction and the National Book Award in 1965.  Pale Horse, Pale Rider features three short novels.  My favorite of the three was "Noon Wine," which tells the story of the Thompson family who live on a dairy ranch in Texas in the 1890s.  A quiet Swedish man named Mr. Helton shows up at the farm and asks for work and Mr. Thompson agrees to provide him room and board, and a small salary, in exchange for work.  Mr. Helton quickly proves himself to be a hard worker, having learned a great deal from his work in North Dakota, though with little interest for becoming friendly with the Thompson.  His main care in the world seems to be his collection of harmonicas.  All goes well on the farm for nine years, when another man shows up at the farm, claiming that Mr. Helton escaped from a mental asylum after stabbing his brother with a pitchfork over a harmonica-related scuffle.  Mr. Thompson doesn't want any trouble and wants the stranger to leave, but before he figures out a way to get him off his porch, things quickly go awry and a tragic incident occurs over which Mr. Thompson can ultimately never forgive himself.  This dark tale is very well written and moves at a quick pace.  On a different note, one of my favorite quotes from the short novel "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," is "How I have loved this house in the morning before we are all awake and tangled together like badly cast fishing lines."  Certainly an intriguing writer, I plan to read Porter's full collection of short stories. 

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