I read this article in the Washington Post the other morning: U-Md., Pulitzer winner’s friends locked in messy battle over her estate, legacy By Michael S. Rosenwald, and it tripped a familiar theme for me. Katherine Anne Porter has been dead for thirty years, and outside of some 20th Century lit courses and the state of Texas, who claims her even though she rejected them for the east coast, I’m not sure her work is even read all that much anymore. But of course here it is: a full on legal-wrangling between the inheritors of her literary estate and the university that wants it. Of the original players, Porter herself and the first trustee are both dead; the original executor of her will, E Barrett Prettyman Jr., is eight-five, and now embroiled in this mess of second-string shoves and postures.
And I can’t help but wonder how much the world really does need the “the 175 linear feet of letters and literary artifacts [Porter] left to the university.”
I don’t mean to be uncharitable and I don’t begrudge any writer her literary fame, especially a woman in an era when serious women writers were treated like freaks of nature. From what I know of Porter, too, she’d quite possibly be pleased by getting into the papers again, at this point.
I do wonder what survives as art because of its intrinsic merit, and what survives because we need a to keep a hoop rolling.