Pale Horse, Pale Rider
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Pale Horse, Pale Rider

4.02 of 5 stars 4.02  ·  rating details  ·  906 ratings  ·  127 reviews
First published in 1939, these three short novels secured the author’s reputation as a master of short fiction.
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 18th 1990 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1939)
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The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonThe Horse and His Boy by C.S. LewisThe Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix PotterMrs. Frisby and the Rats of NIMH by Robert C. O'Brien
The Chinese Zodiac
18th out of 360 books — 30 voters
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Riders Up !
2nd out of 99 books — 19 voters

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(showing 1-30 of 1,868)
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mark monday
O Death, where is thy sting? O Grave, where is thy victory? such soothing words. the afterlife as a just reward - Jesus has taken the sting of death away; the victory that lies beyond the grave - for all those who love Him. but alas, there is no such savior, no such leavening of pain, no embracing of the afterworld in the three novellas that comprise Pale Horse, Pale Rider.

"Old Mortality"

first: death is a mask, a veil, a shadow cast long and dark... it reshapes those it has taken, makes them mor...more
“Blue was never my color.” She sighed with a humorous bitterness. The humor seemed momentary, but the bitterness was a constant state of mind.
William Gass's Fifty Literary Pillars, which is a list of the 50 books that influenced him most, contains this book: one of only 4 by female authors (the others were Virginia Woolf, Colette, and Gertrude Stein), so I thought I had to check this out.

It's a book of 3 novellas (or long short stories). Immediately I was gripped by the voice in 'Old Mortality':...more
Sep 25, 2008 John rated it 5 of 5 stars Recommends it for: readers who want to be chilled & astounded
Recommended to John by: many folks; I got to it late
In this review I'm speaking only on the title piece, a "short novel" according to Porter, but I do have to say that "Old Mortality" (in the same collection) is also nothing short of magnificent. Still, "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" is the one that clings to the nerves, a masterpiece of illness and the implacable rooting after truth. The illness is personal, to be sure; this is the great work out of the influenza epidemic of the late 19-teens, a border-jumping holocaust that no other artist has found...more
Lori (Hellian)
I read this as a teenager and to this date have never ever forgotten it. I get goose bumps remembering it. One day I will reread, and see what I think of it almost 40 years later, especially now that I know it was about the 1911 flu pandemic.
While all three novellas in this book are excellent, both "Noon Wine" and "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" quietly tragic, my heart belongs to "Old Mortality." The first story in the collection, it explores how a family's reverence for its past generations tends to be as romantic as it is based in reality. There's tragedy in this story too, but it's the everyday tragedy of unmet expectations.

"Pale Horse, Pale Rider" continues where "Old Mortality" left off, with the story of the family's youngest gener...more
Donna Brown
For decades I have wanted to read Pale Horse, Pale Rider, but who recommended it or what they might have said is lost in the cobwebs of my mind. For that reason, I jumped straight to this novella, which is last. in no way did it disappoint. The strength of that WWI bleakness squirms through the story. The promise of love torn away, shattered as completely as if it were on a battlefield. The lesser men hawking patriotism as if it were a vacuum cleaner. The close intimacy of the slow dance, the ha...more
Porter, Katherine Anne. PALE HORSE, PALE RIDER. (1939). *****. The three short novels that comprise this collection, in addition to the title story, include “Old Mortality,” and “Noon Wine.” They are all three excellent examples of story-telling at its very best. “Old Mortality” traces the life of Amy, a long-dead aunt of the two young girls who tell her story – or reassemble it – over a period of years. “Noon Wine,” – my favorite of the three – tells of the relationship between a farming family...more
Jesse Hanson
I'm a horseman by birth (my older brother is an accomplished long distance rider) so this ghostly equestrian title kept popping out at me whenever I'd be browzing the quiet and narrow sacred halls of No Particular Library. In fact, the book has not much to do with horses, although it has some to do with them.
Katherine Anne Porter is a brilliant writer--I'd compare her easily to Steinbeck, with a distinctly feminine and completely unique style. She comes at each story from such an angle, throug...more
How on god's green earth hadn't I picked this up before? A girl I worked with and took classes with in college wrote her senior thesis on Porter's 'feminist' revisions of Faulkner, but I suppose I was so busy with my own thesis & worries about grad school that I didn't pick her up at that time and simply forgot about her until forced to read these three short novels (not "novellas", says Porter!) for a seminar last month. Books remain neglected on my shelves for years & years and nothing...more
Donald Mclean
It may be that there is some great literary value to this book. If there is, I really just don't care.

There are some books that are very sad, as if the dog dies heroically at the end, and everyone cries. I have no problem with this. Sometimes we all need a good cry.

There are other books where the author goes out of there way to show the reader how horrible the universe can be, as if the dog dies meaninglessly near the beginning of the book, and the characters spend the rest of the book kicking i...more
I was given this book in the early 1970’s from my Army buddy Butch Drury, himself in the Ph.D. program in English when he was drafted; he now is in the Hospital Administration department at Northwestern, but remains a Renaissance Man, but I digress. This wonderful short book by the author of Ship of Fools contains three short novels about change, sadness, tragedy, sometimes hope, and deep character study, about both individuals and the environment they’re in. Her prose is carefully and thoughtfu...more
This is one of the best books I've ever read and I haven't even finished it. I'm reading Pale Horse, Pale Rider and have yet to read the other two stories, but I can safely say that I'm totally in love with it. I really couldn't explain. This book reminds me of why I love reading in the first place.

Very intense, very moving, has very dry humor (which I found hilarious). Loved Miranda as a character, maybe one of my favorite characters in a novel. Love Porter's writing style, to me it's perfect....more
1) One thing becomes clear when reading Pale Horse, Pale Rider: Katherine Anne Porter is a woman who spent a great deal of time fretting over semicolons. There is not a single sentence in this entire book that fails mechanically. There are no clunkers. I did not have to read and re-read sentences to figure out what she was getting at (unlike some other Southern writers I could name): all the pertinant details were vividly conveyed to me in the first go. Porter is an excellent prose stylist and i...more
Andrew Sydlik
Katherine Anne Porter tears down romantic illusions of family, love, and American righteousness in the three short novels of Pale Horse, Pale Rider. The first story, "Old Mortality," follows Miranda Gray, a character who bears much similarity to Porter herself and appears in a number of other stories, including the title piece of this collection. What really grabs me about all these pieces is the way that Porter's style straddles the subdued and the overwrought, conveying helplessness and traged...more
Oct 27, 2013 Jessica rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Jessica by: Jennifer Boyland (maybe in She's Not There)
Shelves: fiction
I don't know why "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" is always touted as the best in this collection of 3 short stories/novellas. I found it rather dull and not too imaginative. Maybe there was just too much expectation.

"Noon Wine," (which is the reason I picked this book up - I think it was mentioned in Jennifer Finney Boylan's book "She's Not There" - but I can't remember under what circumstances) is definitely the stand-out of the pieces. A very compelling story with a dark undertone that is validated...more
Christopher Hivner
I was unfamiliar with Katherine Anne Porter before reading this book and am now glad I picked it up. Porter has an amazing way with words and with characterization. With only a few sentences you feel as if you know the people in her stories. This book contains 3 short novels of which I think Pale Horse, Pale Rider is the best. Miranda is a young woman working at a newspaper during the last year of the first world war and of the tragic flu epidemic which killed millions. She goes from show to sho...more
First, I have to sad it's rather sad to me that this book has been on my shelves for years (having taken my parents' copy when they moved and were getting rid of books), but I probably wouldn't have picked it up if not for three things: 1. Porter was born about eight miles from where I live, 2. I read "The Jilting of Granny Weatherall" in the class where I was an assistant and enjoyed it, and 3. I needed something light and small to bring on vacation with me. I'm confused why I never read it bef...more

This book is composed of three short novels: "Pale Horse, Pale Rider", "Old Mortality", and "Noon Wine". My favorite was "Pale Horse, Pale Rider", although they were all splendid pieces.

To add tension to a lovestory some element must be present that threatens to keep the lovers apart. In "Romeo and Juliet" it's their families. In "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" it is death. The two young lovers, Miranda and Adam, live in 1918, just before the end of World War I and during the Spanish Flu (I...more
(copied review) The title story "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" is about the relationship between a newspaper woman, Miranda, and a soldier, Adam, during the influenza epidemic of 1918. In the course of the narrative, Miranda becomes sick and delirious, but recovers, only to find that Adam has died of the disease, which he likely caught while tending to her. The story is set in Denver, Colorado. Porter herself lived for a time in Denver, where she wrote reviews for the Rocky Mountain News and was stric...more
Each of these stories is, in its own way, heartbreaking. Porter weaves disillusionment, bitterness and death around the meager lives of early 20th century Americans, of southerners both high and low who find their values and sense of themselves being re-shaped and torn apart by bad fortunes and by modernizing forces utterly beyond their control. Her Gothic pessimism is beautifully realized. If you like Flannery O'Connor, you will probably love these.
Oct 19, 2011 Sloane rated it 3 of 5 stars Recommends it for: 13+
Recommended to Sloane by: English Teacher
I had to read only "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" for my English class these past few weeks, so this review will only be for that short story.
Overall, the novella was more muddled (in the sense that everything blends together), entwined, and post-modern than Inception. I might have to read it several more times to fully grasp all of the point-of-view shifts, dreamscapes, flashbacks, and other interior monolgues that functioned as the stream of conciousness style which gave this story such it's charact...more
I read the 'Pale Horse, Pale Rider' portion of the book, and I think I will give it a 3-3.5 star rating. I did not love it, as it seemed many readers did, but I did like it... I liked the writing style, how it had sort of a mysterious romantic feel to it, and the story was sweet with the love between the characters. I think the bonding of Adam and Miranda and everything that happens in the story and between them in the middle third or so of the story was my favorite part... the beginning was a l...more
Themes: family, death, fate, alienation, war
Setting: Kentucky, Georgia, and Denver, all during the first part of the 20th century

This short book consists of three stories, either long short stories or short novels, "Old Mortality", "Noon Wine" and "Pale Horse, Pale Rider." The first is a sort of reflection on family legends, mainly about a young woman famous for her charm and beauty who died young, the second is a tragedy set on a small dairy farm, and the last is about a young female reporter w...more
Daniel Currie
It is interesting the way I have been reading books lately I have associations with other than the contents of the book itself. I finished this book during the great power outage of 2010. (OK, it was only on my block and only lasted 24 hours, but hey...). But I will remember that.

I started this about 10 years ago and only read about 40 pages, not even finishing the first of 3 short stories comprising this collection. I picked it up and finished it in a few days once I put my mind to it. As for t...more
At points highly abstract but so filled with meaning that you can't hold it against her. The first two stories in particular sort of pull apart mundane life to more sinister lies that hold it together. As for the last (title) story... I'm still sorting that one out.
Excellent stories. Three long short stories or short novellas by Katherine Anne Porter with three very different story lines but a similar theme: How can we know about the world? As children we learn about people (family and friends) from a child' point of view, trying to make sense out of adult conversations and opinions. As adults we take people at face value, especially after having known them for years, but do we really know them? And what about our future? We make plans, go to school, have...more
These three novellas are similar in their melancholy tone, but distinct in message. Some thoughts arose as I read each story.
Old Mortality
The depiction of parenting here is so different from the current middle-class very involved parenting that I see. Though I think in some circles, sending the kids to boarding school and seeing them infrequently or having a nanny raise them still happens. What is the purpose of having children, if you are not going to be a major player in their upbringing? Al...more
Eric Heff
This book contains three short stories by Katherine Anne Porter and they are all pretty easy reads. She writes very eloquently and does a good job building characters. The beginnings of her stories are a little hard to get into but I think they pay off in the end once you get to know the characters better. I liked Noon Wine the best but there are good things in Old Mortality and Pale Horse Pale Rider too.
Pale Horse is about the influenza outbreak that happened during WWI but I felt focused most...more
This is a famous book I had not read - it turns out to be a small volume that covers 3 short novels and the title work is the 3rd novel. The first novelette is Old Mortality and characters (major and minor) reappear in the title work. The second novelette is Noon Wine. Porter writes gritty stuff - you don't want to read her if you are not feeling upbeat. The best description I think could be written about dying from the viewpoint of the person dying is in Pale Horse, Pale Rider - another book wh...more
Lady R.E. Miller
I once drove all the way to Kyle, TX (though I was coming from Austin, TX so it was only 20 miles or something) to visit the Katherine Anne Porter museum. For some reason I can't remember, renovations or something, it was closed. I generally dislike museums, but I have some strange attraction to the houses of writers I like, as if maybe greatness will absorb into me through the floorboards or something. . .

Katherine Anne Porter is probably the master of the long short story. The way she portray...more
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  • A Curtain of Green and Other Stories
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Katherine Anne Porter was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. She is known for her penetrating insight; her works deal with dark themes such as betrayal, death and the origin of human evil.
See also
More about Katherine Anne Porter...
The Collected Stories of Katherine Anne Porter Ship of Fools The Old Order: Stories of the South The Jilting of Granny Weatherall Noon Wine

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“Death always leaves one singer to mourn.” 14 likes
“Don't you love being alive?" asked Miranda. "Don't you love weather and the colors at different times of the day, and all the sounds and noises like children screaming in the next lot, and automobile horns and little bands playing in the street and the smell of food cooking?"
"I love to swim, too." said Adam.
"So do I," said Miranda, "we never did swim together.”
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