The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith

The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith

Joan Schenkar

Language: English

Pages: 704

ISBN: 0312363818

Format: PDF / Kindle (mobi) / ePub


Patricia Highsmith's The Price of Salt is now a major motion picture (Carol) starring Cate Blanchett and Mia Wasikowska, directed by Todd Hayes

A 2010 New York Times Notable Book
A 2010 Lambda Literary Award Winner
A 2009 Edgar Award Nominee
A 2009 Agatha Award Nominee
A Publishers Weekly Pick of the Week

Patricia Highsmith, one of the great writers of twentieth-century American fiction, had a life as darkly compelling as that of her favorite "hero-criminal," the talented Tom Ripley. Joan Schenkar maps out this richly bizarre life from her birth in Texas to Hitchcock's filming of her first novel, Strangers on a Train, to her long, strange self-exile in Europe. We see her as a secret writer for the comics, a brilliant creator of disturbing fictions, and an erotic predator with dozens of women (and a few good men) on her love list. The Talented Miss Highsmith is the first literary biography with access to Highsmith's whole story: her closest friends, her oeuvre, her archives. It's a compulsive page-turner unlike any other, a book worthy of Highsmith herself.

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it”—all of which had sustained Pat’s fictions for five decades—were still alive in her imagination. And it is with these themes that Pat made her last, truly characteristic work, a creation that was much more representative of Highsmith at the height of her powers than this newer, tamer, timelier novel—Small g—whose writing was costing her so much effort. It was a final hurrah for Pat—this flaring up of old obsessions—and she enjoyed it enormously. But instead of consigning her inspiration to the

Vintage, 1994. Lee, Hermione. Virginia Woolf. New York: Vintage, 1999. Legman, Gershon. Love & Death. New York: Hacker Art Books, 1963. Lerman, Leo. The Grand Surprise: The Journals of Leo Lerman. Edited by Stephen Pascal. New York: Knopf, 2007. Maclaren-Ross, Julian. Memoirs of the Forties. (Harmondsworth, UK: Penguin, 1984. Meade, Marion. Dorothy Parker: What Fresh Hell Is This? New York: Penguin, 1989. Meaker, Marijane. Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s. San Francisco: Cleis Press, 2003.

sent her the cassette tape on which he’d recorded his impression of Mary’s failing condition, and for an entire year Pat ignored it, simply refused to listen to it, and then finally summoned up the excuse in a letter to Dan that it was her friend Marion Aboudaram—she saw Marion every weekend—who had a cassette recorder, not she.48 In 1963 and 1964, Pat used to wait “three weeks until I replied to [Mother’s] letters, by which time my sense of disturbance had died down.” By 1968, she was “on quite

Could her list’s imagined victims have something to do with the complicated parentage of little Patsy Plangman (who had one more parent than she wanted, one less parent than she needed), born on the birthdays of both Edgar Allan Poe and his devilish character-with-a-doppelgänger, William Wilson?* That’s the little Patsy Plangman who grew up to be no one’s “patsy” and who, as Patricia Highsmith, presented herself and her best characters as orphans with parents and adults with double lives. Like

Superhero except one: he was a little lacking in initiative. “You shall obey my commands,” [said Rabbi Judah Loew to the Golem,] “and do all that I may require of you, go through fire, jump into water or throw yourself down from a high tower.”33 Will Eisner thought the “Golem was very much the precursor of the super-hero” because the Jews “needed someone who could protect us…. against an almost invincible force. So [Siegel and Shuster] created an invincible hero.”34 Cartoonist Jules Feiffer,

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