This year, Highsmith is in the final lap of a posthumous victory mile that should cement her standing as a no-longer-neglected master of character-driven suspense fiction: The arrival of The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith launches a book initiative that will bring virtually all of her remaining out-of-print work back into stores.
All of which is cause for cheering — except, in this troublesome case, the prose itself. The 64 stories compiled here are not only unlikely to win her writing any new fans, they may cause her devotees to wonder what went wrong. Her protagonists are ordinary people who become murderers, or perhaps murderers who seem like ordinary people: Our sympathies with them force us to reposition ourselves almost constantly in the amoral dreamworld she creates.
In her short work, she favored suburban comeuppances, poison zingers aimed at the complacent bourgeoisie. Here, her decades abroad hobbled her; her Yanks have names like Elsie and Reg, and many of the details of semi-prosperous American life feel remembered or guessed rather than observed.
Aotearoa Books | Selected Stories
A great American writer is back to stay — for better and for worse. The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith.
FB Twitter ellipsis More. Image zoom. And yet, stubborn and forlorn, these men are unable to leave the family farms, tied to the hardscrabble hillsides, to an inheritance of guilt and obligation.
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There are references to pop culture — to movies and songs — in these stories but only very occasionally, and they sometimes feel a little awkward, as if Trevor were forcing himself to notice these things. Most of them take place in a world that, while clearly our own, also evokes a much older world, stripped of accidentals, that is the eternal present of legends, fables and tales. For him the present is always being consumed by the past.
The default condition in his stories is loss and disappointment. Lovers are always breaking up, or on the verge of it.
These are stories that wear well and will never go out of fashion because they were never entirely fashionable to begin with. Tell us what you think. Please upgrade your browser.
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