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

Joan Schenkar, Author . St. Martin's $35 (684p) ISBN 978-0-312-30375-4

Author and playwright Schenkar (Truly Wilde ) presents a compelling portrait of suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith (1921–1995), whose own life was often as twisted as that of her antihero Tom Ripley. Dispensing with the traditional chronological narrative, Schenkar divides her study into themed sections, which crisscross and mirror each other, embodying the themes of doubling and alter egos in Highsmith's work and life. From her early years in Texas through her time soaking up Manhattan's literary life in the '40s to her self-exile in Europe, Highsmith kept diaries in which she meticulously detailed everything from her myriad female lovers to plot ideas. Pessimistic, alcoholic and chronically unhappy, Highsmith created some of the most chilling tales of psychological suspense and betrayal, including The Talented Mr. Ripley and its sequels, and Strangers on a Train . Schenkar's research is impeccable, and she makes excellent use of the voluminous Highsmith archives in Switzerland and interviews with Highsmith's friends, ex-lovers and literary contemporaries. “Perversion,” Highsmith once said, “interests me most and is my guiding darkness,” and Schenkar illuminates how her demons played out on the page and in real life. 16 pages of b&w photos. (Dec.)

Reviewed on: 10/26/2009
Release date: 12/01/2009
Genre: Pick of the Week
Open Ebook - 704 pages - 978-1-4299-6101-1
Paperback - 684 pages - 978-0-312-36381-9
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