The Secret Life of Patricia Highsmith

For a period of about three or five years (could have been a smaller time frame), I devoured pretty much every book Patricia Highsmith wrote.  I’m assuming it started when The Talented Mr. Ripley hit movie theaters back in, what?, 1999? But bar none, she is one of the most sublime crime writers ever, at least on the same level as Raymond Chandler and Dashiell Hammet.  But, until I read this New York Times story about her life (actually a book review for a new biography), I knew nothing about her.  I’m not sure if I’m enthralled that her life was just as fucked up as one of her novels or repulsed.

“Highsmith left 8,000 pages of diaries and “cahiers,” but as Joan Schenkar notes in “The Talented Miss Highsmith,” she forged, fabricated and altered where necessary, just like her antihero Ripley. She lied all the time — to her lovers, to her friends, to the tax authorities, to publishers, agents, journalists, and to posterity. Lying about the facts was her way of telling the truth — as she understood it,” writes Jeanette Winterson.

And that isn’t even the juicy stuff.

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