Emily's Reviews > Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Pale Horse, Pale Rider by Katherine Anne Porter
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's review
May 22, 2009

really liked it
Read in May, 2009

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 before, or why few people I know have read her, and it makes me feel uneasy and cynical.

There are three things that stand out to me as I write this. First, I'm not sure if I can think of another female author who lived through the Great War and wrote about it as specifically or intently as Porter does in the title story. It's an amazing contrast to the male writers of her generation who I tend to associate more with "war writing" and all of the noble ideas attached to war. The horror of WWI is not at all the same here -- I suppose I had believed all people who lived through the Great War felt noble and destroyed about it, but here is someone who presents a much more cynical attitude. It was fascinating for me to understand that the type of disenchantment we assume is the marker of the beginning of modernism may not be as solid as it seems.

Second, the third section of "Old Mortality" blew me away. It's a bit like the part in _All the Pretty Horses_ where Alejandra's great aunt sets the boy down for some stern talk about love/sex, but even better. Porter captures the division between youth and age, innocence and experience, hope and bitterness -- with the type of contrast and question-raising that characterizes the best literature, for there is no moralizing, just a perfect rendering of two very different perspectives.

Last, I found it interesting that all of these stories don't really hit their "conflict" until midway through, yet all the prep work isn't a waste.
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