The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002

Southwestern Historical Quarterly

From Texas to the World and Back: Essays on the Journeys of Katherine Anne Porter. Edit-
ed by Mark Busby and Dick Heaberlin. (Fort Worth: Texas Christian Univer-
sity Press, 2001. Pp. xiii+249. Introduction, contributors, index. ISBN
0-87565-237-9. $26.50, cloth.)
This collection of sixteen essays was substantially derived from a 1998 Kather-
ine Anne Porter symposium at Southwest Texas State University at San Marcos. It
constitutes a highly useful and important contribution to American and Texas lit-
erature studies in general and to Porter studies in particular. This book should be
welcomed joyfully, not only by Porter specialists, but also by fans of literary biog-
raphy and students of the twentieth-century intellectual milieu.
The scope and purpose of these essays is perhaps best described by Betsy
Colquitt in her introduction. Colquitt writes: "the recurrent theme [of this book]
is her [Porter's] connections to and, on occasion, alienations from her native
state" (p. x). Colquitt praises the book's "many insights into the ways in which
Porter's Texas heritage shaped her life and fiction" (pp. xii-xiii).
The collection succeeds admirably in Colquitt's terms, and it achieves a great
deal more as well. Each essay is lucid and well documented. Reasonable readers
might disagree about the interpretation or importance individual contributors
place upon various Porter stories and biographical events. But none can contest
the value of the scholarship, the use of sources (including many previously un-
published references and accounts), the logical organization, and the signifi-
cance of the collection as a whole. Straightforward remembrance essays, such as
Roger Brooks's "Hosting Miss Porter" and Lou Rodenberger's "The Prodigal
Daughter Comes Home," surpass the anecdotal and give us new insight into
Porter's deeply conflicted life and the fine literary art that it produced.
Porter's notoriously labile attitudes about Texas have been treated previously,
for example, in Katherine Anne Porter and Texas: An Uneasy Relationship, edited by
Clinton Machann and William Bedford Clark (College Station: Texas A&M Uni-
versity Press, 1990). But it is the continuing revelation of the writer's deep divi-
sions about most things human and divine, and not just about her home state,
that unifies From Texas to the World and Back and gives it value to a wide range of
readers.
Consider, for example, Mark Busby's excellent essay, "Katherine Anne Porter
and Texas: Ambivalence Deep as the Bone." Busby weighs in on the contentious
issue of Porter's ambiguous relationship to the Lone Star State. But, more impor-
tantly, Busby points out that "This ambivalence cut across her life. ... [and] ex-
tends through her death (pp. 140, 144). Busby asserts that "Porter made her
peace with Texas at age eighty-five" (p. 144), which is a thesis frequently implied
throughout this collection. But on the next page, he concedes that the issue of
Porter's "peace with Texas" remains an open one. Busby then offers and answers
an alternative question that is ultimately more interesting and more useful to an
understanding of Porter's work. That question is: "Did Porter ever make peace
with herself?" He concludes, "It was through her art-a process of shaping con-
flicting, disparate pieces into a whole-that she achieved wholeness" (p. 145).

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Texas State Historical Association. The Southwestern Historical Quarterly, Volume 105, July 2001 - April, 2002. Austin, Texas. The Portal to Texas History. http://texashistory.unt.edu/ark:/67531/metapth101222/. Accessed April 17, 2014.