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Katherine Anne Porter

"The night swarmed with threats."

Katherine Anne Porter, "María Concepción," Flowering Judas (1930)

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"In this moment she felt that she had been robbed of an enormous number of valuable things, whether material or intangible: things lost or broken by her own fault, things she had forgotten and left in houses when she moved: books borrowed from her and not returned, journeys she had planned and had not made, words she had waited to hear spoken to her and had not heard, and the words she meant to answer with ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft," Flowering Judas (1930)

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"I was right not to be afraid of any thief but myself, who will end by leaving me nothing."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft," Flowering Judas (1930)

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"... all that she had had, and all that she had missed, were lost together, and were twice lost in this landslide of remembered losses."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Theft," Flowering Judas (1930)

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"The mind and the heart sometimes get another chance, but if anything happens to the poor old human frame, why, it's just out of luck, that's all."

Katherine Anne Porter, Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939)

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"Nothing is mine, I have only nothing but it is enough, it is beautiful and it is all mine. Do I even walk about in my own skin or is it something I have borrowed to spare my modesty?"

Katherine Anne Porter, Pale Horse, Pale Rider (1939)

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"We pity people too often for the wrong reasons."

Katherine Anne Porter, title story, The Leaning Tower (1944)

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"He was the worst kind of rich American, the kind who pretended to be poor."

Katherine Anne Porter, title story, The Leaning Tower (1944)

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"Untrained minds have always been a nuisance to the military police of orthodoxy. God-intoxicated mystics and untidy saints with only a white blaze of divine love where their minds should have been, are perpetually creating almost as much disorder within the law as outside it."

Katherine Anne Porter, "On a Criticism of Thomas Hardy" (1940), The Days Before (1952)

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"Grant that the idea of God is the most splendid single act of the creative human imagination, and that all his multiple faces and attributes correspond to some need and satisfy some deep desire in mankind; still, for the Inquirers, it is impossible not to conclude that this mystical concept has been harnessed rudely to machinery of the most mundane sort, and has been made to serve the ends of an organization which, ruling under divine guidance, has ruled very little better, and in some respects, worse, than certain rather mediocre but frankly manmade systems of government."

Katherine Anne Porter, "On a Criticism of Thomas Hardy" (1940), The Days Before (1952)

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"I have not much interest in anyone's personal history after the tenth year, not even my own. Whatever one was going to be was all prepared for before that."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Reflections on Willa Cather," The Days Before (1952)

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"Childhood is the fiery furnace in which we are melted down to essentials and that essential shaped for good."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Reflections on Willa Cather," The Days Before (1952)

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"[On Gertrude Stein's Making of Americans:] I doubt if all the people who should read it will read it for a great while yet, for it is in such a limited edition, and reading it is anyhow a sort of permanent occupation."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Gertrude Stein: Three Views" (1927), The Days Before (1952)

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"There are only a few bits of absolute knowledge in the world, people can learn only one or two fundamental facts about each other, the rest is decoration and prejudice."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Gertrude Stein: Three Views" (1927), The Days Before (1952)

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"Like all talkers, she thought other people talked too much ... "

Katherine Anne Porter, "Gertrude Stein: Three Views" (1927), The Days Before (1952)

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"... who wants to read about success? It is the early struggle which makes a good story."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Gertrude Stein: Three Views" (1927), The Days Before (1952)

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"It is hardly possible to exaggerate the lovelessness in which most people live, men or women: wanting love, unable to give it, or inspire it, unable to keep it if they get it, not knowing how to treat it, lacking the humility, or the very love itself that could teach them how to love: it is the painfullest thing in human life, and, since love is purely a creation of the human imagination, it is merely perhaps the most important of all the examples of how the imagination continually outruns the creature it inhabits ... Having imagined love, we are condemned to its perpetual disappointment; or so it seems."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Orpheus in Purgatory," The Days Before (1952)

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"... all working, practical political systems, even those professing to originate in moral grandeur, are based upon and operate by contempt of human life and the individual fate ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Eudora Welty and 'A Curtain of Green'" (1941), The Days Before (1952)

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"... she never published a line that was not worth reading."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Virginia Woolf," The Days Before (1952)

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"In the arts, you simply cannot secure your bread and your freedom of action too. You cannot be a hostile critic of society and expect society to feed you regularly."

Katherine Anne Porter, "The Situation in American Writing" (1939), The Days Before (1952)

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"If you are required to kill someone today, on the promise of a political leader that someone else shall live in peace tomorrow, believe me, you are not only a double murderer, you are a suicide, too."

Katherine Anne Porter, "The Situation in American Writing" (1939), The Days Before (1952)

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"The nose is surely one of the most impressionable, if not positively erotic, of all our unruly members."

Katherine Anne Porter, "The Flower of Flowers," The Days Before (1952)

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"Evil is dull, that is the worst of it ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, "The Flower of Flowers," The Days Before (1952)

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"Grandmother was rather severe with us ... Inappropriate conduct was bad manners, bad manners were bad morals, and bad morals led to bad manners, and there you were, ringed with fire, and no way out."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Portrait: Old South" (1944), The Days Before (1952)

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"... if we say I love you, it may be received with doubt, for there are times when it is hard to believe. Say I hate you, and the one spoken to believes it instantly, once for all. ... Love must be learned, and learned again and again; there is no end to it. Hate needs no instruction, but waits only to be provoked ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, "The Necessary Enemy" (1948), The Days Before (1952)

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"Physical infidelity is the signal, the notice given, that all the fidelities are undermined."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Marriage Is Belonging," The Days Before (1952)

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"... every day quite by the thousands delightfully honest young couples, promising, capable, sometimes gifted, but in no way superhuman, leap gaily into marriage -- a condition which, for even reasonable success and happiness (both words seem rather trivial in this connection), would tax the virtues and resources and staying powers of a regiment of angels."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Marriage Is Belonging," The Days Before (1952)

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"Then there come the children. ... perfect strangers, often hostile, whose habits even to the most adoring gaze are often messy and unattractive. They lie flat on their noses at first in what appears to be a drunken slumber, then flat on their backs kicking and screaming, demanding impossibilities in a foreign language."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Marriage Is Belonging," The Days Before (1952)

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"We have the bad habit, some of us, of looking back to a time -- almost any time will do -- when society was stable and orderly, family ties stronger and deeper, love more lasting and faithful, and so on. Let me be your Cassandra prophesying after the fact, and a long study of the documents in the case: it was never true, that is, no truer than it is now."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Marriage Is Belonging," The Days Before (1952)

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"... I have noticed that the people who are doing the work and the fighting and the dying, and those who are doing the talking, are not at all the same people."

Katherine Anne Porter, "American Statement" (1942), The Days Before (1952)

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"Most people won't realize that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else."

Katherine Anne Porter, in The Saturday Review (1962)

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"Miracles are instantaneous, they cannot be summoned, but come of themselves, usually at unlikely moments and to those who least expect them."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"The quarrel between them was a terrible treadmill they mounted together and tramped round and round until they were wearied out or in despair."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"... words can never get at the truth."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"The past is never where you think you left it ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"Civilization, let me tell you what it is. First the soldier, then the merchant, then the priest, then the lawyer. The merchant hires the soldier and priest to conquer the country for him. First the soldier, he is a murderer; then the priest, he is a liar; then the merchant, he is a thief; and they all bring in the lawyer to make their laws and defend their deeds, and there you have your civilization!"

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"What if her father and mother could not recognize her now if they saw her? In her flesh they slept serenely, loved and loving, not as remembered faces, nor in any arrested act or posture, but as her blood running softly in her veins, as the beat of her heart and the drawing of her breath."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"She knew well that upon the woman depends the whole crushing weight of responsibility for happiness in marriage."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"They were agreed that to grow fat was the unpardonable sin against all the good in life, from ethics to morals to esthetics and back again."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"I get so tired of moral bookkeeping. Who are They? Why does it concern me what They do?"

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"They exchanged one or two universal if minor truths -- pleasure was so often more exhausting than the hardest work ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"The real sin against life is to abuse and destroy beauty, even one's own -- even more, one's own, for that has been put in our care and we are responsible for its well-being."

Katherine Anne Porter, Ship of Fools (1962)

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"I think I've only spent about ten percent of my energies on writing. The other ninety percent went to keeping my head above water."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"... one of the marks of a gift is to have the courage of it."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"I always write a story in one sitting. "

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"... I prefer to get up very early in the morning and work. I don't want to speak to anybody or see anybody. Perfect silence. I work until the vein is out."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work (1963)

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"I work whenever I'm let."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"I've been called a stylist until I really could tear my hair out. And I simply don't believe in style. The style is you."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"I think it is the most curious lack of judgment to publish before you are ready. If there are echoes of other people in your work, you're not ready. If anybody has to help you rewrite your story, you're not ready. A story should be a finished work before it is shown."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"I don't believe in intuition. When you get sudden flashes of perception, it is just the brain working faster than usual. But you've been getting ready to know it for a long time, and when it comes, you feel you've known it always."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"If I didn't know the ending of a story, I wouldn't begin. I always write my last lines, my last paragraph, my last page first, and then I go back and work towards it."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"There are so many things that we are capable of, that we could be or do. The potentialities are so great that we never, any of us, are more than one-fourth fulfilled."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"Human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist -- the only thing he's good for -- is to take these handfuls of confusion and disparate things, things that seem to be irreconcilable, and put them together in a frame to give them some kind of shape and meaning. Even if it's only his view of a meaning. That's what he's for -- to give his view of life."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"I started out with nothing in the world but a kind of passion, a driving desire. I don't know where it came from, and I don't know why -- or why I have been so stubborn about it that nothing could deflect me. But this thing between me and my writing is the strongest bond I have ever had -- stronger than any bond or any engagement with any human being or with any other work I've ever done."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"It is my firm belief that all our lives we are preparing to be somebody or something, even if we don't do it consciously."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"Art is a vocation, as much as anything in this world. For the real artist, it is the most natural thing in the world, not as necessary as air and water, perhaps, but as food and water. ... to follow it you very often have to give up something."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"A cultivated style would be like a mask. Everybody knows it's a mask, and sooner or later you must show yourself -- or at least, you show yourself as someone who could not afford to show himself, and so created something to hide behind. ... You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own way."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"No man can be explained by his personal history, least of all a poet."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Barbara Thompson, "Katherine Anne Porter," Writers at Work, 2nd series (1963)

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"I finished the thing, but I think I sprained my soul."

Katherine Anne Porter, on completing Ship of Fools, in McCall's (1965)

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"... you have to be sure of your vocation. ... You've got to have a certainty beyond rationalization or question. Nobody can help you and nobody can promise you anything. You've got to take your life in your own hands, and you can't go showing manuscripts to other people and asking advice. You've got to work on your own without letting anyone else touch your work."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Roy Newquist, Conversations (1967)

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"... I will never again attempt to tell any young person what to do -- the really gifted don't need advice and the others can't take it."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Roy Newquist, Conversations (1967)

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"Miss Stein ... simply exploded a verb as if it were a soap bubble, used chthonian grammar long before she heard it named (and she would have scorned to name it), was a born adept in occult hypnosis of language without even trying ... Wise or silly or nothing at all, down everything goes on the page with the air of everything being equal, unimportant in itself, important because it happened to her and she was writing about it."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Gertrude Stein: A Self-Portrait," The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings (1970)

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"Lovemaking surely must be, for human beings at our present state of development, one of the more private enterprises. Who would want a witness to that entire self-abandonment and helplessness?"

Katherine Anne Porter, "A Wreath for the Gamekeeper" (1960), The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings (1970)

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"... 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 than ordinarily, the thing you will to occur; but experience is what really happens to you in the long run; the truth that finally overtakes you."

Katherine Anne Porter, "St. Augustine and the Bullfight" (1955), The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings (1970)

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"Each generation must get on the same old merry-go-round, only disguised in a fresh coat of paint."

Katherine Anne Porter, letter (1948), The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings of Katherine Anne Porter (1970)

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"It is as hard to find a neutral critic as it is a neutral country in time of war. I suppose if a critic were neutral, he wouldn't trouble to write anything."

Katherine Anne Porter, letter (1948), The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings (1970)

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"There is no such thing as an exact synonym and no such thing as an unmixed motive."

Katherine Anne Porter, letter (1961), The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings (1970)

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"One little human truth is that opinionated people don't hold much with other people's opinions, and it is a great pleasure to some of them to be able to ascribe incurable defects, such as belonging to a certain sex; or base motives, or lack of understanding, to anyone whose views they disagree with."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1953, The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings (1970)

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"We are born knowing death."

Katherine Anne Porter, "Noon Wine: The Sources" (1956), The Collected Essays and Occasional Writings (1970)

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"I'm not afraid of life and I'm not afraid of death: Dying's the bore."

Katherine Anne Porter, in The New York Times (1970)

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"Freedom, remember, is not the same as liberty."

Katherine Anne Porter, The Never-Ending Wrong (1977)

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"Freedom is a dangerous intoxicant and very few people can tolerate it in any quantity ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, The Never-Ending Wrong (1977)

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"She viewed a 'political illiterate' as a conventional mind might a person of those long-ago days born out of wedlock: an unfortunate condition, but reprehensible and without remedy even for its victim."

Katherine Anne Porter, The Never-Ending Wrong (1977)

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"... we do know now, all of us, that the most appalling cruelties are committed by apparently virtuous governments in expectation of a great good to come, never learning that the evil done now is the sure destroyer of the expected good."

Katherine Anne Porter, The Never-Ending Wrong (1977)

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"Writing does not exclude the full life; it demands it."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Hallie Burnett, On Writing the Short Story (1983)

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"We have this mistaken notion that everybody in the world has to go to college. The colleges are already crowded with people who never in this world will absorb more than a rudimentary education, and we dilute everything to meet this low standard."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Roy Newquist, "An Interview with Katherine Anne Porter," in Joan Givner, ed., Katherine Anne Porter: Conversations (1987)

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"Let me be happy in your happiness, in which I believe most firmly."

Katherine Anne Porter, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Life comes first, an art not rooted in human experience is not worth a damn, but different kinds of minds have different kinds of experience, and all I ask of any man is validity; and there should be place for every type and kind of mind."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1931, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"You are right, none of us live enough, and sometimes I think it is because we mistake hurrah and hullabaloo for experience, we get a sock in the eye and think it is a broken heart ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1931, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Death cancels our engagements, but it does not affect the consequences of our acts in life."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1932, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"There have been many times when I have been so entirely sickened of life it was very hard to work to keep on, a half dozen times I have been tempted to suicide, but I am glad I did not give way, for I have always felt that the last half of my life would somehow atone for the first half, and I still think it may ... It is not possible to live in this world without suffering unless one is a born stone. But it is also possible to have a great deal of happiness in spite of the suffering."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1933, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Work goes as slowly as death by headache, which it really turns out to be, I'm afraid."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1934, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Two-thirds of my energies go in trying to save one-third for work."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1934, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"These are my unreasonable hopes, and I do not see why hopes should ever be reasonable. They're no fun if they are ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1935, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Education must be taken out of the hands of rich illiterates, third rate politicians, and put where it belongs: in the care of scholars. At present the whole University system is rotten to the core, and an appalling waste of time, energy and money ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1937, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"... we know that the Furies do not come uninvited."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1940, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"All life worth living is difficult, nobody promised us happiness; it is not a commodity you have earned, or shall ever earn. It is a by-product of brave living, and it never comes in the form we expect, or at the season we hoped for, or as the result of our planning for it ... "

Katherine Anne Porter, 1941, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Perhaps the habit which distinguishes civilized people from others is that of discussion, exchange of opinion and ideas, the ability to differ without quarrelling, to say what you have to say civilly and then to listen civilly to another speaker."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1941, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"First impressions are often signals from the deep that we should credit oftener than we do ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1942, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Be respectful of words. They mean something."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1943, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"The greatest art comes out of warmth and conviction and deep feeling, but then, very few people, even geniuses, have all that."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1943, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"... Life is a game of piquet played in a bramble bush in very bad weather ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1943, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"... nobody respects the work of an artist; people resent very much his needing any time to do his work. There is not much money in it, at first any way, and the idea that it should be treated as a profession at least, with a place to work and hours during which one shouldn't be disturbed, is very upsetting to the kind of people who would never dream of disturbing a life insurance salesman while he was getting up his accounts ... Again, I think there is a great deal of resentment based on the fact that a man working in the arts, is supposed to be enjoying himself -- he is one of the few persons in the world doing something he really likes and wants to do, so the notion that he should be paid for this use of his time is outrageous, to say the least. It is almost plain thievery for a man to take money for enjoying himself ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1944, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"The very thing about people that makes the human race interesting is also the thing that makes it so hard to get anything done without the most horrible confusions: no two people think exactly the same way about anything ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1944, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"But my belief is growing that our political and social evils are remediable, if only all of us who want a change for the better just get up and work for it, all the time, with as much knowledge and intelligence as we can muster for it. Half the wrongs of human life exist because of the inertia of people who simply will not use their energies in fighting for what they believe in. And finally the wrongs roll up into world catastrophes and millions of deaths and a terrible set-back for all mankind ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1944, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"... advance money is really a delusion, that is to say, I get no more until it is paid out in sales, but still, living from hand to mouth and day to day as I do, a nickel in the hand is more useful than the same nickel next year. What do I know about next year? I've never been there. I don't know any one who has."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1949, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"... I think joy is just as instructive as pain, and I like it better. I never meant to suffer any more than I could help; my nature was meant for happiness, a daylight art and living."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1951, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"I love to praise what I love, and I won't for a minute believe that love is blind -- indeed, it gives clearness without sharpness, and surely that is the best light in which to look at anything."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1952, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"Death is loneliness in its purest form ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1955, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"I always knew one thing, that life is made bearable and possible and liveable by the relations of one human being to another, the individual love and gentleness between persons, or in any case, the unbreakable bond that grows and fastens lives together in all sorts of mysterious ways ..."

Katherine Anne Porter, 1962, in Isabel Bayley, ed., Letters of Katherine Anne Porter (1990)

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"It's a man's world, and you men can have it."

Katherine Anne Porter

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"Eventually women will learn that there's no such thing as freedom. Their husbands are just as fastened to the deck as they are."

Katherine Anne Porter

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"There seems to be a kind of order in the universe, in the movement of the stars and the turning of the earth and the changing of the season, and even in the cycle of human life. But human life itself is almost pure chaos."

Katherine Anne Porter, in The Paris Review (1963)

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Katherine Anne Porter, U.S. writer
(1890 - 1980)

Full name: Katherine Anne Maria Veronica Callista Russell Porter.