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The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith Paperback – 16 Dec 2005


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  • Paperback: 736 pages
  • Publisher: W. W. Norton & Company; New edition edition (16 Dec. 2005)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0393327728
  • ISBN-13: 978-0393327724
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 3.3 x 20.8 cm
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 674,335 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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"For Eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there's no one like Patricia High-smith."

About the Author

Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) was the author of more than twenty novels, including Strangers on a Train, The Price of Salt and The Talented Mr. Ripley, as well as numerous short stories.

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They call me Chorus Girl-shouts of "Chorus Girl" go up when I stand and swing my left leg, then my right, and so on. Read the first page
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Amazon.com: 15 reviews
16 of 16 people found the following review helpful
The Talented Patricia Highsmith 26 Aug. 2002
By Charles S. Houser - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
My interest in Patricia Highsmith was sparked by the two movies based on her novel "The Talented Mr. Ripley" (the Matt Damon picture and "Purple Noon" in which Alain Delon plays Tom Ripley). I have read a couple of the other Ripley novels, but continue to prefer the first one over any of the sequels. In researching Highsmith on the Internet, I saw a collection of stories called "Little Tales of Misogyny" listed in her bibliography. Needless to say, the title intrigued me. Though many of the stories in "The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith" have been continuously in print, I have been unable to find a copy the Misogyny Tales.
The Misogyny Tales take up about 60 pages of this 724-page collection, each tale being only 3 to 5 pages long. It's hard to know what to make of them. Each story features a female character who embodies a specific aspect of the feminine personality; Highsmith allows this quality to unravel to the fullest extent possible, always to the detriment of those who live with or near the protagonists. The titles of the indivdual stories will give you an idea of the range of topics covered: "The Invalid, or, the Bedridden," "The Middle-Class Housewife," "The Breeder," "The Perfect Little Lady," "The Prude," "The Victim," etc. As damning as these stories are of their protagonists, in most cases the reader is likely to be somewhat in awe of the misguided heroines (as we are of the amoral Tom Ripley). Highsmith draws these characters with quick bold strokes using indelible ink. The reader is not given time to warm up to any of the characters and in the end they function more as archetypes than as full-blown fictional characters. Does Highsmith have nothing but contempt for her own sex? Possibly (think of Marge Sherwood in "The Talented Mr. Ripley"). Does she resist feminist rhetoric and politcal correctness? Certainly (you need only read "The Victim" to be convinced of this). Can she write in an honest and thought-provoking way? Absolutely! In some ways her attacks on middle-class convention and mores remind me of the stories of H.H. Munro (Saki) and Shirley Jackson--ironic and hard-hitting at the same time. Even when being her most brutal, she leaves room for pathos.
According to the dust jacket, Highsmith turned to writing short stories later in her life (beginning in the 70s). "Little Tales of Misogyny," interestingly, was first published in German (1975) before being published in English (1977). My only wish is that with a book of this nature (one spanning the author's entire career) that the date of authorship was given for each story. (It helps to know, for instance, that "Little Tales of Misogyny" was written during the height of the 70s feminist movement.)
The book, by the way, is very handsomely typeset and bound, worthy of an author whose recognition and esteem seems to be growing since her death in 1995. Graham Greene's Preface is brief but insightful.
8 of 9 people found the following review helpful
A brilliant, wide-ranging, if uneven talent. 3 Mar. 2002
By Miles D. Moore - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Patricia Highsmith came late to short fiction after decades of novel-writing, and Joyce Carol Oates opined in the New York Review of Books that Highsmith had little talent for the form. The stories here certainly are uneven. Stories such as "Blow It" and "Something the Cat Dragged In" seem too formulaic; "Old Folks at Home" starts from an unbelievable premise and curdles quickly from its mean-spiritedness; "Please Don't Shoot the Trees" is warmed-over Ray Bradbury; most of the "Little Tales of Misogyny" are total throwaways. Highsmith's best stories, however, are breathtaking, and put the lie to Oates' blanket condemnation. My favorite stories in this collection are "Not in This Life, Maybe the Next," "The Cruelest Month" and "The Romantic," all touching and perceptive portrayals of women who have lived too much in their imaginations. "The Pond" and "The Kite" are brilliant and moving fantasies of bereavement; "Chorus Girl's Absolutely Final Performance," about the mistreatment of a zoo elephant and her final vengeance, would make stones weep. And that isn't even counting the tales of horror and suspense that were Highsmith's specialty. There are wonderful, Shirley Jacksonish tales of communities turning on their own ("Not One of Us," "The Black House"), Hitchcockian tales of murder ("Slowly, Slowly in the Wind," "A Curious Suicide," "The Button"), tales of conspiracies gone awry ("When in Rome," "Under a Dark Angel's Eye"). Highsmith's meticulous plots, wide knowledge of the world and bracingly acid view of life ensure that there are many more gems than duds in this book.
7 of 8 people found the following review helpful
a weird and wonderful collection 19 Oct. 2001
By David M. Scott - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Highsmith's catalog, laden with unpredictability, tension, apprehension, strangeness and irrational viewpoints are classics ripe for a celebrated re-emergence
Norton has accepted the challenge with an announced 15-book initiative that should eventually bring nearly all of her work back into print. The initial release includes as the cornerstone a weighty volume of over 60 short stories written throughout her career, now collected together for the first time: The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith. Also re-released in trade paperback are novels Strangers on the Train and A Suspension of Mercy.
Norton's flap copy glows, "Compelling, twisted and fiercely intelligent, The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith is a landmark collection, showcasing her mastery of the short story form." What a weird and wonderful collection this is. The comprehensive volume brings together stories from Highsmith's five previously published collections: The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder; Little Tales of Misogyny; Slowly, Slowly in the Wind; The Black House; and Mermaids on the Golf Course. Much has been made of Highsmith's personal life, including her sexuality, expatriate lifestyle in Europe, and the misunderstanding and ignorance of her fellow Americans. Was she compelled to live in Europe because her works are too twisted for her countrymen? Or maybe they were ahead of their time?
In the Animal stories, beasts and bugs are plotting and intelligent creatures who coldly calculate (in the first person no less) the exploitation or destruction of the neighboring humans. You've got to love being inside a caged elephant's head as she sucks up a huge trunk of water and sprays the people staring at her or a cockroach's mind as he explains the merits of the crumbs on the various floors of the hotel he lives in. In a way, Highsmith relates to animals more warmly than she does people. The collection also includes a series of very short stories, vignettes actually, written in the third person and detailing the women of a suburbia that Highsmith obviously deplored. In stories such as The Perfectionist or The Perfect Little Lady, Highsmith paints a landscape that's a nice and neat on the surface but full of wickedness and murder underneath.
True mystery takes the reader into an unpredictable, twisted and scary world. Highsmith writes true mystery. This is most certainly NOT the formula PI novel with a simpleton murder and nice and neat search for the culprit. Highsmith doesn't rely on simple cat and mouse tension. Instead, she's a master of an unpredictable world, a cold and dark place where even you, the reader, are capable of murder. These are not feel-good works. The good guy usually loses, (that is if you can find a good guy). But the reader wins big because the work is so utterly interesting. Highsmith can rightly be called a master. She disturbs you. And she does it in a totally entertaining way.
David Meerman Scott
Author of Eyeball Wars: a novel of dot-com intrigue
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
A forgotten treasure 4 Jan. 2002
By JACK - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
I confess that as much as I'm a fan of suspense fiction, I have, up to this point, overlooked the fiction of Patricia Highsmith. In fact, I'm sure I'm not alone in writing that my only acquaintance with her work has been through the successful dramatization of two of her novels, "Strangers on a Train" and, more recently, "The Talented Mr. Ripley." So it was with great pleasure that I sampled her shorter suspense fiction, much like one would the mysterious dark chocolates in a Whitman's Sampler.
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...
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
Surprising and Terrific, An Unexpected Treasure 9 July 2004
By Jon J. Warren - Published on Amazon.com
Format: Hardcover
Since I am not a huge fan of Highsmith's mystery novels, enjoying this superb collection was an unexpected surprise (after being recommended to me by a friend). There are five collections of Highsmith's short fiction included in this book and there are a few undeniable masterpieces in each one of them. First up is "The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder," which includes stories where the protagonists are animals trying to survive in the human world. My favorite is "The Bravest Rat in Venice," about a rat exacting a horrible revenge on the family who maimed him. Also enjoyable was "Notes from a Respectable Cockroach." "The Little Tales of Misogyny" was my least favorite group of stories, though "The Victim" is very well done. For me, the truly great stories of this anthology begin with the "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind" section (and where Highsmith begins to show her amazing versatility as a writer). "The Pond," is a terrific tale of horror and bereavement. "One for the Islands" is a creepy sci-fi cruise. "Please Don't Shoot the Trees" is a superb futuristic tale. And "Slowly, Slowly in the Wind" is a masterpiece of horror and murder. From the collection of "The Black House" are even more terrific stories. "Not One of Us" is a wicked, gossipy tale of friends and outsiders. "The Terrors of Basket-Weaving" exhibits "possession" at its most haunting. "Blow It" is a great comedy of manners of a man trying to choose between two girlfriends. And "The Black House" is a haunted house story gone wrong, where it is not the house that is as haunted as the men who keep the story of it alive. Highsmith exhibits a more domestic, suburban style with the stories in "Mermaids on the Golf Course." "Chris's Last Party" is about an actor's fear when his mentor becomes ill. "The Cruelest Month" is indeed cruel. And the finest story of the collection (and my favorite) is "The Romantic," which chronicles a young woman's "fantasy dates." Highsmith is a good, succinct writer who doesn't waste time embellishing or exaggerating her prose, instead letting the plot lead her characters toward their conclusions. I also highly recommend "Nothing That Meets the Eye: The Uncollected Stories of Patricia Highsmith," another compilation of Highsmith's short stories. While not as terrific as "Selected Stories," it does include a few favorites and masterpieces, among them "The Second Cigarette," "A Bird in Hand," and "The Trouble with Mrs. Blynn, the Trouble with the World."
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