The dismantling of a writer: Patricia Highsmith

Highsmith at age 21

Few writers have been written about over time as much as Patricia Highsmith. She cannot be overlooked but yet looked down on. Writers and journalists who probably got the assignment to write about her and accept it to be able to buy lobsters for the evening dinners with their outward literary friends, fulfills the task by familiarly call her “Pat” even though they never met her and for to accomplish the writing task, they read what others before have wrote about Highsmith, to then belches the same derogatory description of her as a person and about her privat life.

I’ll give you an example:

“Patricia Highsmith was an accretion of oddities — a woman who doted on her pet snails and carried a selection of them in her handbag, who abandoned her native America for a restless life in Europe, and who turned a habitual paranoia into literature.” Andrew Taylor, The Spectator (2016/05/crime-pursues-the-crime-writer)

On of the most negative and all trough undocumented information  I’ve have so far read about Highsmith is to find of in  Jeanette Winterson’s review in New York Times of Joan Shenkar’s biography of Highsmith. Well, maybe it is Shenkar who is Winterson’s source for slandering Highsmith? If so, it certainly not gives me a desire to read Shenkar!

Even not read all there is about Highsmith, what I have read give me disgust and reluctance to read anymore about her.  I’ll stick to her novels! But if to believe Winterson, Highsmith was not only a person impregnated by character flaws and bad behavior, she was not much of a writer either! But Shenker writing about her is a according to Winterson a brilliant writer “Schenkar’s writing is witty, sharp and light-handed, a considerable achievement given the immense detail of this ­biography.”

by Francis Goodman, 2 1/4 inch square film negative, June 1957

It drains the soul, be slandered… She’s dead alright, not bother her any more – true! But it bothers me, admiring her.

The best I’ve read about her – and as said, I’ve surely not read all but enough – I did found at the site who with praise refuses to repeat the slander over Highsmith but writes: “Her personal life is not portrayed in a good way.”

You can say that again!

True is, she was nice to people and other writers, so tells those who knew her, although she was not meek. She wrote constantly every day and about 8 to 10 pages a day. This she told in an interview in a newly published video on Youtube: Patricia Highsmith | American Author | Good Afternoon | 1978

She was a member of Amnesty International and strongly engaged in the Palestinian issue and she hated Israel’s constant discrimination and ongoing extermination of the Palestinian people. She had a strong sympathy for animals, though never becoming a vegetarian. She was a homosexual in a time when it was criminalized and consider to be a mental illness that should be cured. And sadly for her, she did try to cure herself!

Further what is true fact, she left her estate worth an estimated $3 million and the promise of any future royalties to the Yaddo colony, an artists’ community located on a estate in Saratoga Springs, New York.

Highsmith 1988 at age 67

She was controversial and not politically correct, but I really cannot understand what (parts of) the English-speaking established literary society have and had against her? Moving abroad even being an American and having critical opinions, drinking and smoking too much and never liked food and cooking even being a woman, having had countless of love affairs, losing her beauty and getting old and grumpy, so what? So what?! It is hardly a cause for this ingrained slander.

Writing is a lonely job and need to be and apparently she abhorred the social compulsion surrounding the publication of her books. She is hardly the only one who hates forced formal socially dinner parties and noisy talking around any book publications. It’s actually a torture for every introvert individual, who thrives best at home at her typewriter.

So honor given if so narrow for  her impressive literary production but no empathy för Highsmith as a human, the woman who created Tom Ripley – to see her work distort in movies. After death dismembered, her old once worn worn-out jeans hanging on a clothes-hanger behind the lecturer, the audience staring as if they were attending an exhibition of a forensic technician. Nasty!

Phyllis Nagy wrote “People say: “Don’t meet your heroes”, but I was not disappointed. She was complex in exactly the way that real human beings are complex.”

The Phyllis Nagy quote from:

Joan Schenker lecturing on Highsmith’s once worn and worn-out jeans

This entry was posted in about writing, aging, become old, books, creativity, culture values, human cruelty, inspiring literature, living in the world, morality, poems by vonnely, politics, rebellious lovers, repression and borders, sexuality, single-handed voyage, web papers, words, writing and tagged , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

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