"Shortly before her last illness, Porter had envisioned a book collecting more of her reviews. Now Unrue has achieved that for her. This book is a welcome edition to Porter scholarship."
—Studies in Short Fiction
"A significant—and overdue—contribution to Porter studies. Since Porter has such a relatively small body of published work, this largely neglected and inaccessible material will be welcome and nourishing manna upon which Porter scholars will feast."
"The subject matter covers a wide range of topics, including travel, fiction, Mexican history and politics, feminism, and related issues. The reviews, interesting in themselves, provide additional insights into Porter's own life and works. Editor Unrue provides a nice introduction, which places the reviews and surrounding events in Porter's life in the proper context."
"Unrue's collection brings together for the first time reviews that largely have been inaccessible to Porter scholars. . . . The book is a great edition to Porter studies; its introduction valuably details many aspects of her art, while the book itself gives readers access to reviews previously buried on microfilm or in archives."
—Western American Literature
In her introductory essay Darlene Harbour Unrue provides important biographical information on Porter, traces her career as a reviewer, and links critical assumptions in the reviews to the themes and techniques of Porter's fiction. Other scholars as well have regarded Porter's critical reviews as valuable tools both for analyzing the fiction and for constructing a portrait of Porter the artist, primarily because Porter produced so little fiction (three collections of short stories and novellas, Flowering Judas, The Leaning Tower, and Pale Horse, Pale Rider, and a novel, Ship of Fools). In the preface to the first collection of her nonfiction writings, The Days Before, Porter herself urged readers to look closely at her nonfiction, for there they would discover "the shape, direction, and connective tissue of a continuous, central interest and preoccupation of a lifetime."
Most of the reviews—which appeared in such publications as the New York Herald Tribune, the New York Times, the Nation, and New Masses--she apparently undertook for financial reasons, but occasionally she would agree to review a friend's latest offering. She published no reviews after the success of her best-selling novel, Ship of Fools.
Porter's scope as a reviewer was impressively broad. Because she lived in Mexico City during the revolution, had known Diego Rivera, and had studied "primitive" Mexican art, she was often called on to review books on Mexican art and on the revolution. Porter also reviewed many books by or about women. Her reviews of the Short Novels of Colette and Katharine Anthony's translation of Catherine the Great's memoirs are particularly noteworthy for her comments about women artists and her expression of admiration for women who flout traditional roles.
These collected reviews illustrate the evolution of one of the most important American writers of the twentieth century and will interest not only Porter scholars but also anyone who appreciates her fiction.
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