Short Stories, Irish literature, Classics, Modern Fiction, Contemporary Literary Fiction, The Japanese Novel, Post Colonial Asian Fiction, The Legacy of the Austro-Hungarian Empire and quality Historical Novels are Among my Interests

Thursday, August 29, 2013

"The Grave" by Katherine Anne Porter

Katherine Anne Porter (Texas, USA 1890 to 1980) won just about every American literary award worth winning, including the Pulitzer Prize and The National Book Award.  Her most famous work is her novel, Ship of Fools.  I was very glad to see that an excellent web page I follow, Recommended Reading had placed one of her short stories online.  Her full collection of short stories comes to nearly 1000 pages and many say they are her best work.  Her stories work the same ground as Eudora Welty, William Faulkner,  Flannery O'Connor and Nora Hurston, the rural American south in the days between the world wars.  Like these stories, teachers should note that "The Grave Yard" contains politically incorrect racial terms.  

My main purpose in posting on this story, besides trying to seal it in my porous memory, is to give my readers the opportunity to read one of her stories online for free.  The story is set in rural Texas.  The grandmother of the family moved there some years ago as her husband wanted to buried there. In tie they start a family graveyard and lots of people join the grandfather.  A brother and sister, 9 and 12 are out hunting rabbit.  In an amazingly powerful scene, they begin to skin a rabbit they shot only to find she was about ready to give birth.  This deeply impacts the girl.   There is a lot in this story about life in rural Texas. I loved the closing lines of the story:

"Miranda never told, she did not even wish to tell anybody. She thought about the whole worrisome affair with confused unhappiness for a few days. Then it sank quietly into her mind and was heaped over by accumulated thousands of impressions, for nearly twenty years. One day she was picking her path among the puddles and crushed refuse of a market street in a strange city of a strange country, when, without warning, in totality, plain and clear in its true colors as if she looked through a frame upon a scene that had not stirred nor changed since the moment it happened, the episode of the far-off day leaped from its burial place before her mind’s eye. She was so reasonlessly horrified she halted suddenly staring, the scene before her eyes dimmed by the vision back of them. An Indian vendor had held up before her a tray of dyed-sugar sweets, shaped like all kinds of small creatures: birds, baby chicks, baby rabbits, lambs, baby pigs. They were in gay colors and smelled of vanilla, maybe… It was a very hot day and the smell in the market, with its piles of raw flesh and wilting flowers, was like the mingled sweetness and corruption she had smelled that other day in the empty cemetery at home: the day she had remembered vaguely always until now as the time she and her brother had found treasure in the opened graves. Instantly upon this thought the dreadful vision faded, and she saw clearly her brother, whose childhood face she had forgotten, standing again in the blazing sunshine, again twelve years old, a pleased sober smile in his eyes, turning the silver dove over and over in his hands."

There is a deep wisdom in this story.   

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