Katherine Anne Porter

Hermione Lee writes:

It is 1912, and Miranda Gay, one of Katherine Anne Porter’s versions of her younger self, is travelling to a family reunion in South Texas, in the country between Austin and San Antonio. She has made a rash early marriage and alienated herself from her family. She talks to an elderly woman cousin on the train, who bursts out: ‘Ah, the family … the whole hideous institution should be wiped from the face of the earth.’ Miranda, who is on her way home to an unfriendly widowed father and a houseful of siblings and cousins, violently longs to create her own, separate future:

Her blood rebelled against the ties of blood. She was sick to death of cousins. She did not want any more ties with this house, she was going to leave it, and she was not going back to her husband’s family either. She would have no more bonds that smothered her in love and hatred … Her mind closed stubbornly against remembering, not the past but the legend of the past, other people’s memory of the past, at which she had spent her life peering in wonder like a child at a magic lantern show. Ah, but there is my own life to come yet, she thought, my own life now and beyond.

(LRB 12 February 2009)