Pale Horse, Pale Rider

Katherine Anne Porter

I stole this book for my own reading list from the responses to a friend’s request for book suggestions not too long ago. While trying to determine what to read and skimming through my list, I browsed some synopses and reviews of Pale Horse, Pale Rider and found this comment: “Katherine Anne Porter is a woman who spent a great deal of time fretting over semicolons” — the deciding factor in adding this to my library queue.

Porter considered these three stories short novels, but I feel they are more like long shorts — a subtle difference. It’s hard to tell if they are ordered by ascending caliber or if they are all equally good and they build on each other. I feel like “Pale Horse, Pale Rider” must be the best of them and why the book shares its title. Set in WWI, it focuses on a woman Miranda who works as a reporter and begins seeing a soldier who is about to be deployed, until she catches influenza, the one that actually killed more people than the war. It has a more curious structure than the other stories, beginning with a dream, progressing through the narrative crux, and then shifting into a long, half-conscious interlude before Miranda recovers and returns to normal life. Then it closes with this amazing paragraph:

No more war, no more plague, only the dazed silence that follows the ceasing of the heavy guns; noiseless houses with the shades drawn, empty streets, the dead cold light of tomorrow. Now there would be time for everything.