History, Reading, Research

We Should Talk About: Patricia Highsmith

Hello! I wanted to start highlighting different authors who are complicated, but have impacted the literary canon in a meaningful way. The first author I wanted to discuss is Patricia Highsmith.

Patricia Highsmith was a very difficult woman, with a dark sense of humor and a passion for individuality and isolation that conflicted with her belief in love. Born in Texas in 1921, Highsmith lived in New York and attended Columbia University, moving to Europe permanently in 1963. She received several literary awards during her life and her novel Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley series are considered to be staples in the crime and thriller genres. Check out more information here.

For an excellent biography that gets into the messy views of Highsmith, check out The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar. Patricia Highsmith was not a perfect person by any means, and at times she can be considered a rather bad one, with antisemitism and bigotry making appearances in her personal writing. Her secret diaries are going to be published in 2021, allowing people to get a closer look at a writer who clung to her privacy and secrecy until the day she died.

In addition to establishing the American crime genre, she wrote one of the first lesbian novels with a happy ending, The Price of Salt, which later became the acclaimed film Carol starring Cate Blanchett. Additionally, she was a master of the short story using thrilling, dark and entrancing writing and subject matter that tends to stay with the reader long after they are done reading. For a full list of her work in our catalog, click here. Or for additional resources, try Hoopla! Highsmith also had a bit of an obsession with snails, keeping them as pets, taking them to parties, and making them the subject of several stories (read “The Snail Watcher” if you don’t believe me).

A lot of her work has been translated to films that have stood the test of time in American cinema. In addition to Carol, check out Purple Noon, or The Talented Mr. Ripley . Whether you read or watch her work, be prepared for mediation on darkness, thrill and human error and prepare to see it reflected back from the author herself.

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