Back “Magic,” Katherine Anne Porter

From Katherine Anne Porter: Flowering Judas and Other Stories

Marguerite Griffin, who worked at Minnie White’s brothel on Basin Street, New Orleans, c. 1912. Gelatin silver print from negative by photographer E. J. Bellocq (1873–1949). Courtesy of the Phillips auction house website.

From late 1927 into the first half of 1928, Katherine Anne Porter lived in Salem and had witches, voodoo, and magic on her mind. She was deep into research for a historical account of Cotton Mather and the seventeenth-century witch trials. She published in The New Republic a review of “A Mirror for Witches,” the second novel by Esther Forbes: “She has held up not only a mirror for witches, but a magic reflection of New England’s past. . . . At times the narrative reads like a transcript from the witch tales that conscientious country preachers wrote down for Increase Mather’s famous collection.”

Much of this material reminded Porter of her youthful fascination with voodoo. When she and her sister were in their twenties and living in Louisiana, they heard old Creole tales from local residents, and she recalled one anecdote about a voodoo witch told to her by a maid who once worked in Storyville, the red-light district of New Orleans. One result of Porter’s ruminations on these topics was “Magic,” her shortest and perhaps most experimental story.

“Magic” is featured at our Story of the Week site, with an introduction describing how Porter came to write the story—and how readers have often missed a key element of this 1,200-word tale.

Read Katherine Anne Porter’s “Magic”

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