Katherine Anne Porter (b. May 15): “The real sin against life is to abuse and destroy beauty.”

15 May

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Katherine Anne Porter (15 May 1890 – 18 September 1980) was a Pulitzer Prize-winning American journalist, essayist, short story writer, novelist, and political activist. Her 1962 novel Ship of Fools was the best-selling novel in America that year, but her short stories received much more critical acclaim.

10 Quotes on writing:

  1. You do not create a style. You work, and develop yourself; your style is an emanation from your own being.
  2. Most people won’t realise that writing is a craft. You have to take your apprenticeship in it like anything else.
  3. 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 before that.
  4. The real sin against life is to abuse and destroy beauty, one’s own even more, for that has been put in our care and we are responsible for its well-being.
  5. 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. I know where I’m going. I know what my goal is.
  6. I love the purity of language. I keep cautioning my students and anyone who will listen to me not to use the jargon of trades, not to use scientific language, because they’re going to be out of date the day after tomorrow.
  7. You have to speak clearly and simply and purely in a language that a six-year-old child can understand; and yet have the meanings and the overtones of language, and the implications, that appeal to the highest intelligence.
  8. I think it’s something in the blood. We’ve always had great letter writers, readers, great storytellers in our family. I’ve listened all my life to articulate people. They were all great storytellers, and every story had shape and meaning and point.
  9. Human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist 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.
  10. 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. There’s something about the way you feel, you know when the well is dry, that you’ll have to wait till tomorrow and it’ll be full up again.


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