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This title in other editions

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

by

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

ISBN13: 9780312363819
ISBN10: 0312363818
All Product Details

 

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

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 Hitchcocks 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 Highsmiths whole story: her closest friends, her oeuvre, her archives. Its a compulsive page-turner unlike any other, a book worthy of Highsmith herself.

Review:

"Schenkar has a wonderfully bold approach: not worrying about a linear chronology (although this is meticulously supplied in the appendices), but choosing instead to follow the emotional water course of Highsmith's life, allowing her subject to find her own level — to be tidal, sullen, to flow without check, so that events in one decade naturally make an imaginative tributary into turbulence before and after. Schenkar's writing is witty, sharp and light-handed, a considerable achievement given the immense detail of this biography. Highsmith was a detail junkie. Schenkar's nonlinear organizing method was a brilliant idea to save herself — and the reader — from data overload. This is a biography of clarity and style. A model of its kind." Jeanette Winterson, The New York Times Book Review

Review:

"This is no ordinary biography...[Ms. Schenkar] writes with great authority and perverse affection...The Talented Miss Highsmith breaks much ground in connecting Highsmith's diabolical tales with the real women who prompted her strongest passions....In addition to its impressive sweep, this biography also values minutiae. An exacting inventory of the contents of Highsmith's office captures every mundane object, right down to the goats bell and the Wite-Out pencil. Highsmith loved details like that. And Ms. Schenkar shows an uncannily keen grasp of Highsmith's spirit." Janet Maslin, The New York Times

Review:

"Throughout nearly 700 pages of lustrous text, Schenkar's prose is as supple and shapely as Highsmith's was flat and functional. The Talented Miss Highsmith is both dazzling and definitive....Its scope and scholarship are unassailable, and its vigor indefatigable. It's a volume as original as its contemptible, miserable, irresistible subject." Daniel Mallory, Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Ms. Schenkar provides a vivid, disturbing portrait of a writer whose work — thanks to some virtuosic movie-making — is known more as source material than as literary art in its own right....It is hard to imagine a more thoroughly fact-filled or energetic biography than The Talented Miss Highsmith or one more determined to examine the deepest recesses of its complicated subject." Alexander Theroux, The Wall Street Journal

Synopsis:

Patricia Highsmith, one of the great writers of 20th-century American fiction, had lived a life as darkly compelling as that of her favorite "hero-criminal," Tom Ripley. In this revolutionary biography — a 2010 Lambda Award winner — Schenkar paints a riveting portrait of the author's brilliant career.

Synopsis:

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 Hitchcocks 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 Highsmiths whole story: her closest friends, her oeuvre, her archives. Its a compulsive page-turner unlike any other, a book worthy of Highsmith herself.

About the Author

Joan Schenkar is the author of Truly Wilde: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde as well as a collection of plays, Signs of Life: 6 Comedies of Menace. She lives in Paris and Greenwich Village.

What Our Readers Are Saying

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Average customer rating based on 2 comments:

rollyson2002, October 1, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)
Patricia Highsmith is best known for her "Ripliad" -- five novels featuring an engaging murderer, Tom Ripley. This criminally attractive man is the enemy of all things conventional, as was his creator.

Moments before her death, Highsmith urged a visiting friend to leave, repeating, "Don't stay, don't stay." Highsmith wanted nothing more than to die alone, according to her biographer, who concludes, "Everything human was alien to her."

Highsmith, a native Texan, was born restless, her mother said. The novelist kept moving to new venues all over Europe, acquiring and discarding female lovers and denouncing all of them. They were poor substitutes for the mother she loved and hated.

This mother fixation was just one of the Highsmith passions that provoke biographer Joan Schenkar to eschew a chronological narrative. Instead, the chapters in "The Talented Miss Highsmith" (St. Martin's Press, $35) are organized around Highsmith's obsessions.

The result of this unorthodox approach is an intricate, novel-like structure that suits Schenkar's own wit. Highsmith's mother, Mary, makes several entertaining entrances -- for example, arriving in London to see her daughter "with rather less warning than the Blitz."

"Miss Highsmith" is full of wonderfully realized scenes, like the opening chapter describing with mesmerizing, miraculous detail exactly how Highsmith composed her work. She gripped her "favorite Parker fountain pen, hunched her shoulders over her roll-top desk -- her oddly jointed arms and enormous hands were long enough to reach the back of the roll while she was still seated."

Highsmith's love life is described with loving specificity garnered from sources who do not wish to be identified by their real names.

"In the delicate balance of competing truths that biography is always on the verge of upsetting, both the living and dead deserve a little protection from each other," Schenkar writes.

This panoply of lovers is new material not to be found in other books, which also failed to unearth Highsmith's surprising seven-year career writing for comic books.

For those who want the straight dope, there is a substantial appendix titled "Just the Facts." But Schenkar is at pains to reiterate that Highsmith did not develop over time; indeed, the biographer notes that Highsmith "forged chronologies to give order to her life, altering the record of her life and the purport of her writing to do so."

You don't have to buy Schenkar's thesis. In "Beautiful Shadow," Andrew Wilson produced a rather good chronological biography of Highsmith.

Nevertheless, Schenkar's methods and deep research into Highsmith's deceptive practices have yielded one of the year's best literary lives, which is also a bracing rebuke to the usual way we read biography.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
rollyson2002, October 1, 2012 (view all comments by rollyson2002)
Patricia Highsmith is best known for her "Ripliad" -- five novels featuring an engaging murderer, Tom Ripley. This criminally attractive man is the enemy of all things conventional, as was his creator.

Moments before her death, Highsmith urged a visiting friend to leave, repeating, "Don't stay, don't stay." Highsmith wanted nothing more than to die alone, according to her biographer, who concludes, "Everything human was alien to her."

Highsmith, a native Texan, was born restless, her mother said. The novelist kept moving to new venues all over Europe, acquiring and discarding female lovers and denouncing all of them. They were poor substitutes for the mother she loved and hated.

This mother fixation was just one of the Highsmith passions that provoke biographer Joan Schenkar to eschew a chronological narrative. Instead, the chapters in "The Talented Miss Highsmith" (St. Martin's Press, $35) are organized around Highsmith's obsessions.

The result of this unorthodox approach is an intricate, novel-like structure that suits Schenkar's own wit. Highsmith's mother, Mary, makes several entertaining entrances -- for example, arriving in London to see her daughter "with rather less warning than the Blitz."

"Miss Highsmith" is full of wonderfully realized scenes, like the opening chapter describing with mesmerizing, miraculous detail exactly how Highsmith composed her work. She gripped her "favorite Parker fountain pen, hunched her shoulders over her roll-top desk -- her oddly jointed arms and enormous hands were long enough to reach the back of the roll while she was still seated."

Highsmith's love life is described with loving specificity garnered from sources who do not wish to be identified by their real names.

"In the delicate balance of competing truths that biography is always on the verge of upsetting, both the living and dead deserve a little protection from each other," Schenkar writes.

This panoply of lovers is new material not to be found in other books, which also failed to unearth Highsmith's surprising seven-year career writing for comic books.

For those who want the straight dope, there is a substantial appendix titled "Just the Facts." But Schenkar is at pains to reiterate that Highsmith did not develop over time; indeed, the biographer notes that Highsmith "forged chronologies to give order to her life, altering the record of her life and the purport of her writing to do so."

You don't have to buy Schenkar's thesis. In "Beautiful Shadow," Andrew Wilson produced a rather good chronological biography of Highsmith.

Nevertheless, Schenkar's methods and deep research into Highsmith's deceptive practices have yielded one of the year's best literary lives, which is also a bracing rebuke to the usual way we read biography.
Was this comment helpful? | Yes | No
(2 of 4 readers found this comment helpful)
View all 2 comments

Product Details

ISBN:
9780312363819
Author:
Schenkar, Joan
Publisher:
Picador USA
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts
Subject:
Entertainment & Performing Arts - General
Subject:
Biography-Literary
Subject:
Literary
Edition Description:
Trade Paper
Publication Date:
20110131
Binding:
TRADE PAPER
Grade Level:
A" <B>&amp;#8212;<I>Entertainment Weekly<BR></I></
Language:
English
Illustrations:
Includes 16 pages of black-and-white pho
Pages:
704
Dimensions:
9.25 x 6.13 in

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Related Subjects

Biography » Literary
Fiction and Poetry » Mystery » A to Z
Gay and Lesbian » Fiction and Poetry » Lesbian Fiction
Religion » Comparative Religion » General

The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith New Trade Paper
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Product details 704 pages Picador USA - English 9780312363819 Reviews:
"Review" by , "Schenkar has a wonderfully bold approach: not worrying about a linear chronology (although this is meticulously supplied in the appendices), but choosing instead to follow the emotional water course of Highsmith's life, allowing her subject to find her own level — to be tidal, sullen, to flow without check, so that events in one decade naturally make an imaginative tributary into turbulence before and after. Schenkar's writing is witty, sharp and light-handed, a considerable achievement given the immense detail of this biography. Highsmith was a detail junkie. Schenkar's nonlinear organizing method was a brilliant idea to save herself — and the reader — from data overload. This is a biography of clarity and style. A model of its kind."
"Review" by , "This is no ordinary biography...[Ms. Schenkar] writes with great authority and perverse affection...The Talented Miss Highsmith breaks much ground in connecting Highsmith's diabolical tales with the real women who prompted her strongest passions....In addition to its impressive sweep, this biography also values minutiae. An exacting inventory of the contents of Highsmith's office captures every mundane object, right down to the goats bell and the Wite-Out pencil. Highsmith loved details like that. And Ms. Schenkar shows an uncannily keen grasp of Highsmith's spirit."
"Review" by , "Throughout nearly 700 pages of lustrous text, Schenkar's prose is as supple and shapely as Highsmith's was flat and functional. The Talented Miss Highsmith is both dazzling and definitive....Its scope and scholarship are unassailable, and its vigor indefatigable. It's a volume as original as its contemptible, miserable, irresistible subject."
"Review" by , "Ms. Schenkar provides a vivid, disturbing portrait of a writer whose work — thanks to some virtuosic movie-making — is known more as source material than as literary art in its own right....It is hard to imagine a more thoroughly fact-filled or energetic biography than The Talented Miss Highsmith or one more determined to examine the deepest recesses of its complicated subject."
"Synopsis" by , Patricia Highsmith, one of the great writers of 20th-century American fiction, had lived a life as darkly compelling as that of her favorite "hero-criminal," Tom Ripley. In this revolutionary biography — a 2010 Lambda Award winner — Schenkar paints a riveting portrait of the author's brilliant career.
"Synopsis" by ,
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 Hitchcocks 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 Highsmiths whole story: her closest friends, her oeuvre, her archives. Its a compulsive page-turner unlike any other, a book worthy of Highsmith herself.

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