Katherine Anne Porter on F. Scott Fitzgerald (She Wasn’t a Fan)

Katherine Anne Porter in her Paris Review interview:

PORTER

I’ve never belonged to any group or huddle of any kind. You cannot be an artist and work collectively. Even the fact that I went to Mexico when everybody else was going to Europe—I went to Mexico because I felt I had business there. And there I found friends and ideas that were sympathetic to me. That was my entire milieu. I don’t think anyone even knew I was a writer. I didn’t show my work to anybody or talk about it, because—well, no one was particularly interested in that. It was a time of revolution, and I was running with almost pure revolutionaries!

INTERVIEWER

And you think that was a more wholesome environment for a writer than, say, the milieu of the expatriated artist in Europe at the same time?

PORTER

Well, I know it was good for me. I would have been completely smothered—completely disgusted and revolted—by the goings-on in Europe. Even now when I think of the twenties and the legend that has grown up about them, I think it was a horrible time: shallow and trivial and silly. The remarkable thing is that anybody survived in such an atmosphere—in a place where they could call F. Scott Fitzgerald a great writer!

INTERVIEWER

You don’t agree?

PORTER

Of course I don’t agree. I couldn’t read him then and I can’t read him now. There was just one passage in a book called Tender Is the Night—I read that and thought, “Now I will read this again,” because I couldn’t be sure. Not only didn’t I like his writing, but I didn’t like the people he wrote about. I thought they weren’t worth thinking about, and I still think so. It seems to me that your human beings have to have some kind of meaning. I just can’t be interested in those perfectly stupid meaningless lives. And I don’t like the same thing going on now—the way the artist simply will not face up to the final reckoning of things.

2 thoughts on “Katherine Anne Porter on F. Scott Fitzgerald (She Wasn’t a Fan)”

  1. I was living in NYC when Ms. Porter’s book, ‘The Ship of Fools’ was published. Its release was eagerly anticipated by many European ex-pats and NY intellectuals. Many felt she could make a good work of the evil banality of rich people caught up in the changes in pre-WWII Europe. The triviality and superficiality of the elite. I can understand why she possibly thought of Fitzgerald as a glorified society reporter with a gift for words. I hope that the movie of Gatsby is better than the mish mash that was made of SOF.

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    1. But I tell you, nothing is pointless, and nothing is meaningless if the artist will face it. And it’s his business to face it. He hasn’t got the right to sidestep it like that. Human life itself may be almost pure chaos, but the work of the artist—the only thing he’s good for—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. Even if it’s only his view of a meaning. That’s what he’s for—to give his view of life.
      This is a great interview. I learned more from reading this than every thing else I have read about the ‘artistic mind’.

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