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Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith

by

Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith Cover

 

Awards

2004 Edgar Award for Best Critical/Biographical Work

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

The life of Patricia Highsmith was as secretive and unusual as that of many of the best-known characters who people her "peerlessly disturbing" thrillers and short stories. Yet even as her work has found new popularity in the last few years, the life of this famously elusive writer has remained a mystery.

For Beautiful Shadow, the first biography of Highsmith, British journalist Andrew Wilson mined the vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters she left behind, astonishing in their candor and detail. He interviewed her closest friends and colleagues as well as some of her many lovers. But Wilson also traces Highsmith's literary roots in the work of Poe, noir, and existentialism, locating the influences that helped distinguish Highsmith's writing so startlingly from more ordinary thrillers. The result is both a serious critical biography and one that reveals much about a brilliant and contradictory woman, one who despite her acclaim and affairs always maintained her solitude.

Review:

"Perhaps no one 'can document a life in all its richness,' but Wilson has come close, getting at Highsmith from a number of angles and showing the splinters of identity in his subject that she herself found so captivating." Kirkus Reviews

Review:

"[A] thorough, extensively researched, dispassionate account of [Highsmith's] complex life, and [Wilson's] analysis of how her personality affected her books...is accurate and illuminating." Alice K. Turner, The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"[N]either graceful nor fluid, [but] as haunting and as chilling as the stories and novels Highsmith crafted....Wilson has impressively documented [Highsmith's impact] as well as the tremendous cost Highsmith paid for her achievements." Publishers Weekly

Review:

"Wilson achieves the detachment required to document Highsmith's bizarre personal habits...while still appreciating the intellectual and emotional insights she had to give." Elise Harris, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"[M]arvelously insightful....This is the best kind of literary biography, doing honor to its subject and all her warts, exactly as Highsmith would have wished." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"[F]ascinating, beautifully balanced and meticulously researched...telling us as much as we are ever likely to know about Highsmith the woman and bringing us as close to understanding the writer as we are ever likely to get." P.D. James, Sunday Telegraph (UK)

Review:

"[An] exemplary biography of a tortured, difficult and outstandingly gifted human being....Wilson has fashioned a biography that does complete justice to her uneasy spirit." Sunday Times (London)

Review:

"Masterly, utterly absorbing....The beauty of Wilson's biography lies in his recognition that...[Highsmith] had the courage, skill and industry to turn unspeakable angst into transcendent entertainment." Craig Brown, Mail on Sunday (UK)

Review:

"[A] commendable biography of a most complex contrarian....Wilson's greatest strength is to show how Highsmith was able to manipulate her profound contradictions into high popular art." Douglas Kennedy, The Times (London)

Review:

"An absorbing and terribly sad book...sometimes, it was in the small...detail in this book by Andrew Wilson that one felt one had glimpsed the very odd imagination of the person who wrote those marvellous books." A.N. Wilson, Evening Standard (UK)

Review:

"Andrew Wilson does sterling work....[A] fascinating, depressing read about a brilliant, tragic woman." Natasha Walter, Guardian (UK)

Synopsis:

Wilson mined the vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters Highsmith left behind, interviewed her closest friends and colleagues as well as some of her many lovers to create this serious critical biography that reveals much about a brilliant and contradictory woman who, despite her acclaim and affairs, always maintained her solitude.

Synopsis:

The life of Patricia Highsmith was as secretive and unusual as that of many of the best-known characters who people her "peerlessly disturbing" thrillers and short stories. Yet even as her work has found new popularity in the last few years, the life of this famously elusive writer has remained a mystery.

For Beautiful Shadow, the first biography of Highsmith, British journalist Andrew Wilson mined the vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters she left behind, astonishing in their candor and detail. He interviewed her closest friends and colleagues as well as some of her many lovers. But Wilson also traces Highsmith's literary roots in the work of Poe, noir, and existentialism, locating the influences that helped distinguish Highsmith's writing so startlingly from more ordinary thrillers. The result is both a serious critical biography and one that reveals much about a brilliant and contradictory woman, one who despite her acclaim and affairs always maintained her solitude.

Andrew Wilson is a journalist who has written for most of Britain's national newspapers, including the Observer, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, and the Daily Mail. This is his first book.

Whitbread Prize Nominee

Patricia Highsmith, the celebrated author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, was renowned as a suspense writer during her lifetime, and in recent years a revival of her chilling and highly original body of work has brought her even wider recognition. She was notoriously evasive about both the sources of her fiction and her private life. But with her death in February 1995, Highsmith left behind a vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters extraordinary in their candor and detail.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, into an unhappy marriage, Highsmith saw herself as an outsider even as a child. She was fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe and the case histories in Dr. Karl Menninger's The Human Mind, and by her teenage years she was exploring similar dark psychological themes in her own writing. As a college student in New York City and throughout her life, she conducted a series of passionate affairs with women who often also served as mentors or musesmany of whom speak here about Highsmith for the first time. Yet these romances were always more alluring in the ideal than in reality, and Highsmith found her greatest lasting happiness in her work.

Using Highsmith's intimate papers, together with material gleaned from her closest friends and lovers, Andrew Wilson has written the first biography of this veiled figure, an author described by Graham Greene as "the poet of apprehension" and by Gore Vidal as "one of our greatest modernist writers." From Texas, Wilson follows Highsmith's trail to New York, Italy, England, France, Germany, and her final resting place in Tegna, Switzerland. With this remarkable book, he illuminates Highsmith's creative process and reveals the secrets that the writer chose to keep hidden until after her death, finally allowing the full portrait of this compelling, contradictory woman to emerge.

"Andrew Wilson achieves the detachment required to document Highsmith's bizarre personal habits . . . while still appreciating the intellectual and emotional insightful she had to give."The New York Times Book Review

"A tour de force, an account so generous and prescient that Highsmith seems to step from its pages like a hologram, in all her contradictory glory . . . This is the best kind of literary biography."Los Angeles Times

"An excellent, intelligent, wonderfully readable biography of Highsmith . . . One of the best biographies I've come across in years. It's a work of exquisite scholarship andfrom the graceful ease and, yes, the beauty of its writingmuch more."The Boston Globe

"Andrew Wilson achieves the detachment required to document Highsmith's bizarre personal habits . . . while still appreciating the intellectual and emotional insight she had to give."The New York Times Book Review

"Highsmith . . . has been lucky in her first biographer. A thorough, extensively researched, dispassionate account of her complex life."The Washington Post

"There is nothing quite so satisfying as a big fat biography that is well told. Andrew Wilson gives us a book bulging with history, cultural commentary, and extraordinary access to a writer's diaries and lettersnot to mention the testimony of countless witnesses to Patricia Highsmith's life . . . [This is] a bravura performance that seduces us into relishing all the confidential and secretive aspects of [that] life . . . Mr. Wilson triumphs not only as Highsmith's biographer but as The Biographer, showing us why we read biography: It is, in the right hands, a continuation not only of the writer's life but of her work."Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun

"Well-researched . . . [An] admirable biography."Robin Updike, The Seattle Times

0"Patricia Highsmith was, in short, a biographer's dream, and British journalist Wilson does her full justice in a stunningly researched and insightful account of her 74 years . . . Sympathetic but unblinking."Entertainment Weekly (Editor's choice)

"[Beautiful Shadow] is as haunting and as chilling as the stories and novels Highsmith crafted over more than 50 productive years . . . Highsmith's work has had an important impact on both crime fiction and gay and lesbian fiction, and Wilson has impressively documented that as well as the tremendous cost Highsmith paid for her achievements."Publishers Weekly

"Wilson [is] non-judgemental to a fault [in his life of] one of the greatest, darkest American storytellers since Poe."Terry Castle, The New Republic

"Perhaps no one 'can document a life in all its richness,' but Wilson has come close, getting at Highsmith from a number of angles and showing the splinters of identity in his subject that she herself found so captivating."Kirkus Reviews

About the Author

Andrew Wilson has written for most of Britain's national newspapers, including the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday and the Daily Mail. This is his first book.

Product Details

ISBN:
9781582344119
Subtitle:
A Life of Patricia Highsmith
Author:
Wilson, Andrew
Publisher:
Bloomsbury USA
Location:
New York
Subject:
Women
Subject:
Lesbians
Subject:
Authors, American
Subject:
Suspense fiction
Copyright:
Edition Number:
Reprint ed.
Edition Description:
Trade Paperback
Publication Date:
April 2004
Binding:
Paperback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Y
Pages:
304
Dimensions:
8.25 x 5.50 in

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Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z

Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith Used Trade Paper
0 stars - 0 reviews
$7.95 In Stock
Product details 304 pages Bloomsbury Publishing PLC - English 9781582344119 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Perhaps no one 'can document a life in all its richness,' but Wilson has come close, getting at Highsmith from a number of angles and showing the splinters of identity in his subject that she herself found so captivating."
"Review" by , "[A] thorough, extensively researched, dispassionate account of [Highsmith's] complex life, and [Wilson's] analysis of how her personality affected her books...is accurate and illuminating."
"Review" by , "[N]either graceful nor fluid, [but] as haunting and as chilling as the stories and novels Highsmith crafted....Wilson has impressively documented [Highsmith's impact] as well as the tremendous cost Highsmith paid for her achievements."
"Review" by , "Wilson achieves the detachment required to document Highsmith's bizarre personal habits...while still appreciating the intellectual and emotional insights she had to give."
"Review" by , "[M]arvelously insightful....This is the best kind of literary biography, doing honor to its subject and all her warts, exactly as Highsmith would have wished."
"Review" by , "[F]ascinating, beautifully balanced and meticulously researched...telling us as much as we are ever likely to know about Highsmith the woman and bringing us as close to understanding the writer as we are ever likely to get."
"Review" by , "[An] exemplary biography of a tortured, difficult and outstandingly gifted human being....Wilson has fashioned a biography that does complete justice to her uneasy spirit."
"Review" by , "Masterly, utterly absorbing....The beauty of Wilson's biography lies in his recognition that...[Highsmith] had the courage, skill and industry to turn unspeakable angst into transcendent entertainment."
"Review" by , "[A] commendable biography of a most complex contrarian....Wilson's greatest strength is to show how Highsmith was able to manipulate her profound contradictions into high popular art."
"Review" by , "An absorbing and terribly sad book...sometimes, it was in the small...detail in this book by Andrew Wilson that one felt one had glimpsed the very odd imagination of the person who wrote those marvellous books."
"Review" by , "Andrew Wilson does sterling work....[A] fascinating, depressing read about a brilliant, tragic woman."
"Synopsis" by , Wilson mined the vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters Highsmith left behind, interviewed her closest friends and colleagues as well as some of her many lovers to create this serious critical biography that reveals much about a brilliant and contradictory woman who, despite her acclaim and affairs, always maintained her solitude.
"Synopsis" by ,
The life of Patricia Highsmith was as secretive and unusual as that of many of the best-known characters who people her "peerlessly disturbing" thrillers and short stories. Yet even as her work has found new popularity in the last few years, the life of this famously elusive writer has remained a mystery.

For Beautiful Shadow, the first biography of Highsmith, British journalist Andrew Wilson mined the vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters she left behind, astonishing in their candor and detail. He interviewed her closest friends and colleagues as well as some of her many lovers. But Wilson also traces Highsmith's literary roots in the work of Poe, noir, and existentialism, locating the influences that helped distinguish Highsmith's writing so startlingly from more ordinary thrillers. The result is both a serious critical biography and one that reveals much about a brilliant and contradictory woman, one who despite her acclaim and affairs always maintained her solitude.

Andrew Wilson is a journalist who has written for most of Britain's national newspapers, including the Observer, the Daily Telegraph, the Guardian, the Independent on Sunday, and the Daily Mail. This is his first book.

Whitbread Prize Nominee

Patricia Highsmith, the celebrated author of Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, was renowned as a suspense writer during her lifetime, and in recent years a revival of her chilling and highly original body of work has brought her even wider recognition. She was notoriously evasive about both the sources of her fiction and her private life. But with her death in February 1995, Highsmith left behind a vast archive of diaries, notebooks, and letters extraordinary in their candor and detail.

Born in Fort Worth, Texas, into an unhappy marriage, Highsmith saw herself as an outsider even as a child. She was fascinated by Edgar Allan Poe and the case histories in Dr. Karl Menninger's The Human Mind, and by her teenage years she was exploring similar dark psychological themes in her own writing. As a college student in New York City and throughout her life, she conducted a series of passionate affairs with women who often also served as mentors or musesmany of whom speak here about Highsmith for the first time. Yet these romances were always more alluring in the ideal than in reality, and Highsmith found her greatest lasting happiness in her work.

Using Highsmith's intimate papers, together with material gleaned from her closest friends and lovers, Andrew Wilson has written the first biography of this veiled figure, an author described by Graham Greene as "the poet of apprehension" and by Gore Vidal as "one of our greatest modernist writers." From Texas, Wilson follows Highsmith's trail to New York, Italy, England, France, Germany, and her final resting place in Tegna, Switzerland. With this remarkable book, he illuminates Highsmith's creative process and reveals the secrets that the writer chose to keep hidden until after her death, finally allowing the full portrait of this compelling, contradictory woman to emerge.

"Andrew Wilson achieves the detachment required to document Highsmith's bizarre personal habits . . . while still appreciating the intellectual and emotional insightful she had to give."The New York Times Book Review

"A tour de force, an account so generous and prescient that Highsmith seems to step from its pages like a hologram, in all her contradictory glory . . . This is the best kind of literary biography."Los Angeles Times

"An excellent, intelligent, wonderfully readable biography of Highsmith . . . One of the best biographies I've come across in years. It's a work of exquisite scholarship andfrom the graceful ease and, yes, the beauty of its writingmuch more."The Boston Globe

"Andrew Wilson achieves the detachment required to document Highsmith's bizarre personal habits . . . while still appreciating the intellectual and emotional insight she had to give."The New York Times Book Review

"Highsmith . . . has been lucky in her first biographer. A thorough, extensively researched, dispassionate account of her complex life."The Washington Post

"There is nothing quite so satisfying as a big fat biography that is well told. Andrew Wilson gives us a book bulging with history, cultural commentary, and extraordinary access to a writer's diaries and lettersnot to mention the testimony of countless witnesses to Patricia Highsmith's life . . . [This is] a bravura performance that seduces us into relishing all the confidential and secretive aspects of [that] life . . . Mr. Wilson triumphs not only as Highsmith's biographer but as The Biographer, showing us why we read biography: It is, in the right hands, a continuation not only of the writer's life but of her work."Carl Rollyson, The New York Sun

"Well-researched . . . [An] admirable biography."Robin Updike, The Seattle Times

0"Patricia Highsmith was, in short, a biographer's dream, and British journalist Wilson does her full justice in a stunningly researched and insightful account of her 74 years . . . Sympathetic but unblinking."Entertainment Weekly (Editor's choice)

"[Beautiful Shadow] is as haunting and as chilling as the stories and novels Highsmith crafted over more than 50 productive years . . . Highsmith's work has had an important impact on both crime fiction and gay and lesbian fiction, and Wilson has impressively documented that as well as the tremendous cost Highsmith paid for her achievements."Publishers Weekly

"Wilson [is] non-judgemental to a fault [in his life of] one of the greatest, darkest American storytellers since Poe."Terry Castle, The New Republic

"Perhaps no one 'can document a life in all its richness,' but Wilson has come close, getting at Highsmith from a number of angles and showing the splinters of identity in his subject that she herself found so captivating."Kirkus Reviews

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