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Pale Horse, Pale Rider

3.99  ·  Rating Details ·  1,498 Ratings  ·  172 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 Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyOf Mice and Men by John SteinbeckThe Grapes of Wrath by John Steinbeck
Best Books of the Decade: 1930s
148th out of 457 books — 820 voters
The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time by Mark HaddonThe Girl with the Dragon Tattoo by Stieg LarssonTrancing the Tiger by Rachael SlateThe Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix PotterThe Horse and His Boy by C.S. Lewis
The Chinese Zodiac
21st out of 475 books — 53 voters

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Community Reviews

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Sep 22, 2008 Heather rated it it was amazing

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
Sep 25, 2008 John rated it it was amazing
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
Oct 14, 2008 Tony rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 15, 2009 Lori rated it it was amazing
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.
May 22, 2009 Emily rated it really liked it
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
Nov 24, 2009 Sterlingcindysu rated it liked it
(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
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
Feb 21, 2012 Jamie rated it it was amazing
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
Jesse Hanson
Feb 11, 2011 Jesse Hanson rated it really liked it
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
Apr 29, 2011 Jimmy rated it really liked it
“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':
Jan 10, 2013 Tim rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Christopher Hivner
May 12, 2012 Christopher Hivner rated it really liked it
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
Aug 14, 2012 Richard rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2012
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
Donna Brown
Jul 04, 2013 Donna Brown rated it it was amazing
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
Donald Mclean
Aug 02, 2013 Donald Mclean rated it did not like it
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
Oct 27, 2013 Jessica rated it really liked it  ·  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
Andrew Sydlik
Dec 19, 2013 Andrew Sydlik rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literary-novels
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
mark monday
Jan 23, 2014 mark monday rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Apr 06, 2014 Jeremy rated it really liked it
Shelves: american-fiction
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.
Aug 19, 2014 David rated it really liked it
Short and intense. The first novella, "Old Mortality," is a rich evocation of the American South during the early twentieth century, complete with horse races, large families (with expectations), courtship etiquette, womens' hats, and hunting. The second, "Noon Wine," is a more traditional tale whose beneath-the-surface tension violently erupts to great effect. The final one, "Pale Horse, Pale Rider," follows a young woman to the other side of death in her battle with Spanish influenza. Equally ...more
Mary Warnement
Sep 04, 2014 Mary Warnement rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: rereading, subway
Of course the story that gives the collection its name is the one that stays with you. (If anyone feels they can't read all three, then I say go with the first and third. Miranda appears in both, and though she's one of many--and a minor one at that--in the first, I think it informs the third, set in 1918 in an unnamed western town. I first read this 22 years ago. I'm amazed at what I recall and also what I forgot. WWI has been on my mind this centennial of its start, and this is a story set in ...more
João Carlos

Katherine Anne Porter, commemorative postage stamp, 2005, US Postal Service – Michael J. Deas, Oil on Panel

“Cavalo Pálido, Pálido Cavaleiro” é uma pequena “colecção" de três novelas “curtas” da escritora norte-americana Katherine Anne Porter (1890 – 1980) – “Velha Mortalidade” (1936), “O Vinho do Meio-Dia” (1937) e “Cavalo Pálido, Pálido Cavaleiro” (1939).
A produção ficcional de Katherine Anne Porter foi limitada – um romance “A Nave dos Loucos” editado em 1962, que levou vinte e dois anos a esc
Fuck. Fuckkkk. It's amazing how Porter's unshowy writing has caused me to spiral down a lovely backroad of existential dread. "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" > Soderbergh's Contagion but "Old Mortality" is the standout for me.
Feb 26, 2015 Sonja rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library-book
4,5 stars! i'll be thinking about these stories for a long time to come.
Apr 30, 2015 Elgin rated it really liked it
Shelves: short-stories
I read "When Books went to War," an account of the massive effort to supply good books to the WWII servicemen. Works by Katherine Anne Porter were among the more popular books, so I decided to read one. This collection was three well-written and stories concerning death. The first story was about the death of a beloved young lady and the resulting affects that rippled through the family in the ensuing years. The second in the collection was about an accidental death on a farm as the owner tries ...more
Lindsay Luke
Jun 27, 2015 Lindsay Luke rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This review has been hidden because it contains spoilers. To view it, click here.
Oct 23, 2015 Sergey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bitterness and death cloak the corners of every room, every moment. We must outrun Death and Devil, she said; but they ride along. And what wonderful pairing of these short novels and Bruch's violin concertos! Such an exhilarating, satisfying feast of melancholy and muse.

Old Mortality. The first, and in the past - this Death that thrives in history, family, and man.

Noon Wine. The second, and in the present l, Death lives to drink from the soul.

Pale Horse, Pale Rider. The third and final. In c
"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 the automobile horns and little bands playing in the street and the sound of food cooking?"

It's always good when I enjoy reading something I'm studying. What a great short story. I refer only to the title piece "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" in this review, although I'm keen to try some of Katherine Anne Porter's
Jun 22, 2016 verbava rated it really liked it
американський південь такий розмаїтий, що тяжко повірити в майже одночасність подій у цих трьох коротесеньких романах (я б сказала, повістинках навіть, але обкладинка наполягає). у першому тексті живе стара південна аристократія, яка й на початку двадцятого століття відчайдушно намагається вдавати, наче час її не зачіпає. у другому перед читацькими очима розлягаються спалені сонцем ферми, де працюють зайві, покалічені, гротескні люди. третій доносить відгомони першої світової та якісь проблиски ...more
Jul 26, 2016 William rated it really liked it
I'm amazed that it has taken me most of a lifetime to get to this book. Porter is an exquisite story-teller with a memorably fine writing style. While all three stories are excellent, somehow the first one stays with me a little less vividly, just a series of impressions remain. But the other two will last me a long time.

Both "Noon Wine: and "Pale Horse, Pale Rider" are sad, even tragic. I especially liked the first one for the clear structure and very human emotions. "Pale Horse" really puts on
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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.
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“Death always leaves one singer to mourn.” 20 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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