Books: Folk Ballads


by Joan Givner

Simon & Schuster; 572 pages; $19.95

The poet and novelist Robert Penn Warren summed up the legend of his friend Katherine Anne Porter just before her death in 1980 at the age of 90. Once upon a time there was "a beautiful woman, wanderer in many lands, witty, restless, fanatically devoted to her art, a charming and accomplished conversationalist, and in the end, after all sorts of poverty, rich and famous."

It made a marvelous story, as Porter knew all too well. For the woman who became rich and famous for her 1962 novel, Ship of Fools, and...

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