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Pale Horse, Pale Rider

3.99  ·  Rating details ·  2,003 ratings  ·  237 reviews
First published in 1939, these three short novels secured the author’s reputation as a master of short fiction.

From the gothic Old South to revolutionary Mexico, few writers have evoked such a multitude of worlds, both exterior and interior, as powerfully as Katherine Anne Porter. This collection gathers together the best of her Pulitzer Prize-winning short fiction, includ
Hardcover, 208 pages
Published June 18th 1990 by Houghton Mifflin Harcourt (first published 1939)
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Penn Hackney It's from Revelation 6:7-8, in the King James Version thus:

7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come…more
It's from Revelation 6:7-8, in the King James Version thus:

7 And when he had opened the fourth seal, I heard the voice of the fourth beast say, Come and see.

8 And I looked, and behold a pale horse: and his name that sat on him was Death, and Hell followed with him. And power was given unto them over the fourth part of the earth, to kill with sword, and with hunger, and with death, and with the beasts of the earth.(less)

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 ·  2,003 ratings  ·  237 reviews

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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
Sep 25, 2008 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
Apr 14, 2011 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':
Oct 31, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I came to this while looking through the "Literary Pillars" by Gass. I'm a sucker for Southern Gothic, and two-out-of-three of these short novels are absolute killers. "Noon Wine" is canonical, the best 'genre' work I've read in a while. Pick it up, read it, put it down. Then find yourself shell-shocked for the rest of the evening. Sorta like listening to the Bay City Rollers.
Jan 15, 2009 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.
Aug 26, 2011 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
Nov 20, 2017 rated it it was amazing
This holds characterizations that are struck deeply. Some of the best I've read in my life to sickness and to the discontent of "not fitting"- as well. All three novellas are brilliant.

I'm doing a reread and the review will be forthcoming. Probably after Thanksgiving.
Donna Brown
Jun 17, 2013 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
Dec 23, 2010 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
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
Jesse Hanson
Jan 06, 2011 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
Donald Mclean
Aug 02, 2013 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
Jan 24, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"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
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 23, 2015 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.
Jul 25, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Three short novels collected in one volume. I thought the first - Old Mortality - brought a time and place to life vividly and created an almost voyeuristic feeling - not unlike those opening scenes of Geraldine Page in The Trip to Bountiful. I felt like one of the characters, present though unacknowledged by the narrator. So perfectly realized were these characters that I recognized cousin Eva Parrington pages before Miranda did. She was a tart middle-aged lady that I'd have loved to have spen ...more
Tom Leland
Jun 06, 2018 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
The word that comes to mind is 'masterful'. Porter has been mentioned in the same breath as Flaubert and Hawthorne, and I see why. Particularly in the first two stories, Old Mortality and Noon Wine, detailed depictions of each character, as well as their thoughts, reveal truths that otherwise in our day-to-day life lie just beyond our consciousness -- a rare gift only the finest writers have. Beyond that, the most vast themes of human existence are explored and illuminated, sometimes openly, and ...more
Old Mortality is a fine study of family myths, gender, independence. Pale Horse has an interesting portrait of feverish hallucination. Noon Wine is a bit thin.
Bob Newman
Dec 06, 2017 rated it really liked it
Death à trois

With these three, very different stories Porter fully emerged onto the American literary scene in the 1930s, having scored a success previously with "The Flowering Judas Tree and other stories". Though the book has only the three sections, they are so separate as to warrant separate reviews. Only one character, Miranda, appears in two stories. She is probably Porter's alter ego, though I am not so familiar with the details. All the stories deal with Death in some manner, Love plays
Oct 17, 2015 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
Aug 29, 2014 added it
What an astonishing novella. (I am writing only about the title work here.) While I've read it before, this time it hit me even more powerfully--I imagine that the older one gets, the closer to believing in one's mortality, the more of a tour de force Pale Horse, Pale Rider feels. I was rereading the book for technical reasons--I wanted to study Porter's use of a third-person narrator that at times is almost identical with the inner speech of Miranda, the protagonist, and at other times is quite ...more
Aug 19, 2014 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
Apr 06, 2014 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.
Apr 17, 2015 rated it really liked it
Shelves: hattlibrary
Wonderfully written stories, without a wasted word. I adored Ship of Fools, and now must re-read it.
Apr 04, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Noon Wine is good, disturbing, crystal-clear even as it describes confusion; Old Mortality is very good at capturing the undercurrents that go unspoken in family histories and what we make of them; but Pale Horse, Pale Rider is phenomenal. Terrifying, wry, sad, visionary, unflinching, hands-down, give-up-the-farm, pretenders out there don't even come close. The only reason I can think of why everyone in this country doesn't read this story is because it's too good at describing death, and it's f ...more
Mar 21, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Porter should be recognized more in American canon – every bit as good as Hemingway and Fitzgerald.
Andrew Sydlik
Dec 16, 2013 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
Feb 23, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
As recommended in NYTBR "By The Book" interview of Rachel Cusk:

"What’s your favorite book no one else has heard of?

I’m always astonished by how few people know Katherine Anne Porter, in the U.K. at least. I don’t really know what I’d be if I hadn’t read her: The stories in “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” gave me so much to navigate by, both personally and artistically. Her writing is a sustained display of moral competence that at a certain point — having never thought very clearly about the gender of
May 22, 2009 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
Sep 22, 2008 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
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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.” 23 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.”
More quotes…