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The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith Paperback – December 17, 2005
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Penzler Pick, September 2001: One of the truly brilliant short-story writers of the 20th century, Patricia Highsmith has at last received the acclaim she never had while alive.
The release of the excellent film The Talented Mr. Ripley appears to have brought Highsmith many readers who may have heard of her but had never read her books. In spite of the fame of Strangers on a Train, published when she was still in her 20s, Highsmith never enjoyed commercial success in the United States (though she was a huge bestseller in Germany and Austria).
Now, six years after her death at the age of 74, Norton is reissuing her novels and has compiled this giant collection of her short fiction, incorporating the complete text of five previously published collections. This volume also includes an introduction by Graham Greene, somewhat truncated from its original (and uncredited) publication in The Snail-Watcher and Other Stories (1970). It is abbreviated because, oddly, none of the stories from that excellent collection are included in the present omnibus, and Greene makes reference to what is perhaps Highsmith's most famous story, "The Snail- Watcher."
Even lacking this masterpiece and the equally unsettling "The Terrapin," there are many distinguished tales of horror and, as Greene accurately defines them, apprehension.
In "The Hand," the first story in the collection originally published as Little Tales of Misogyny, a young man asks the father of his beloved for her hand and is given it--in a box. Equally unappealing events befall the women (and, indeed, the men) skewered in the other stories in this aptly titled volume, most of which are so short that they are mere vignettes, each startling in the terse clarity of the prose and the matter-of-factness of the fates meted out to the protagonists.
"The Dancer" is strangled in quiet rage by her partner, who walks away from her lifeless body as an audience cheers the performance. "The Coquette" is murdered by the two lovers she had set against each other, and they are let off by a judge who had also been tortured by her coquetry. He forgave their infatuation with her, "a state that inspired his pity, since he had become sixty years old," as Highsmith cruelly explains.
"The Black House," the title story of another collection, introduces a pleasant, happy, and charming young man who is, of course, doomed. He tests his courage by entering a dark house, reputedly haunted and the scene of young lovers' trysts as well as the vicious murder of a boy, and finds it empty and unthreatening. When he describes his adventure to his friends at the local pub, he is killed for a transgression that remains unknown to him.
This important book may not be for everyone, but if you don't mind a sense of unrelenting doom and are willing to risk nightmares of dread, you will find the prose dazzling and the fiction memorable. --Otto Penzler --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
From Publishers Weekly
In his foreword to this big posthumous collection, the late Graham Greene deemed the inimitable crime novelist Highsmith (The Talented Mr. Ripley; Strangers on a Train) "the poet of apprehension." Although the short story doesn't allow Texas-born expatriate Highsmith to take menace to the creepy heights achieved in her novels, this volume shows the range and depth of her misanthropy. Divided into sections that sort the cruelty of humans into different guises, the stories range from the abuse and neglect of innocent animals and children (Highsmith demonstrates a tenderness toward innocents that balances and highlights her dark world view) to the stupidity or deadly self-indulgence of different characters including a man who spends his entire life writing novels in his head. The evil that Highsmith probes can be subtle. In "The Network," for example, a middle-aged woman in Manhattan serves as the den mother of city dwellers cleaving together out of a common fear of the dangers of New York. The woman is shown busily spinning a web of fear and bad feeling under the guise of doing good. Other stories are at the opposite end of the subtlety scale. In "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind," a hotheaded tycoon marches inexorably toward a crime laid out in the first pages with the beautiful precision of a place setting by Martha Stewart. As with the productions of that gifted hostess, the thrill here is in the unexpected flourishes. In every story, Highsmith demonstrates her brilliant and inimitable talent for making even the coldest characters galvanizing. Entertaining enough for the beach, this collection should be compulsory for students of the psychological thriller. (Aug.)Forecast: Hefty enough to daunt casual film-influenced readers, this collection will thrill hardcore fans, and should backlist well.
Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.--This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top customer reviews
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A can't-miss for Highsmith fans! But new readers may want to try a few of her novels first.
As to be expected, the quality and effectiveness of the stories is uneven in places. Some of the shorter stories seem more like character sketches rather than full-blown short fictional stories. Still everything makes for fascinating reading.
Now to correct my oversight and begin reading all of Highsmith's suspense novels...