The professor of English at the University of Nevada, Las Vegas, has written and edited several books about the work and life of Texas literary talent Katherine Anne Porter, who died in 1980. Unrue just edited Porter: Collected Stories and Other Writings, an augmented reprint of the landmark volume that won a Pulitzer Prize and a National Book Award in 1966.
Can you briefly describe the arc of Porter’s career?
Her first publication was an amateurish poem for a trade journal in 1912. She worked as a freelance journalist, and in 1930 she published a collection of short stories, Flowering Judas, to critical acclaim. Then came Pale Horse, Pale Rider, in 1939, and Ship of Fools, in 1962, which was hailed by some as one of the greatest novels in the English language.
What about her tumultuous life?
Porter offended conventional society with her vagabondage, numerous marriages and divorces, smoking heavily, drinking at will, and taking ill-chosen lovers almost to the end of her days.
Can you share one line that captures Porter’s essence?
“Adventure is something you seek for pleasure, or even for profit, like a gold rush or invading a country; for the illusion of being more alive . . . But experience is what really happens to you in the long run, the truth that finally overtakes you.” The Library of America, $40 (Read the full interview.)