Happy 100th Birthday, Patricia Highsmith

American novelist Patricia Highsmith was born on this day 100 years ago (January 19, 1921) in Fort Worth, Texas. She died on February 4, 1995. In between, her life was marked by chronic cycles of depression, anorexia, and alcoholism. She was a misanthrope who preferred the company of animals to that of people. She was misogynistic, anti-Semitic, and, at least in later life, racist.

But she wrote some brilliant fiction. Alfred Hitchcock turned her first novel, Strangers on a Train (1950), into a film released in 1951. The Talented Mr. Ripley (1955), the other novel for which she is perhaps best known, was made into a film released in 1999. She wrote four more novels about Tom Ripley, whom various critics have described as amoral, sociopathic, and psychopathic.

violence, torment, obsession, all bubbling beneath a cool veneer – that was the signature of her fiction. . . . you don’t come to Patricia Highsmith for goodness or light or comfort. You come to her for uncanny observations about human depravity; you come to her because you’ve forgotten the sour taste of fear.

Twisted brilliance: Patricia Highsmith at 100

© 2021 by Mary Daniels Brown

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