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From the Publisher
"The Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith" presents five of
Highsmith''s classic short story collections in a single masterful
volume. Compelling, twisted, and fiercely intelligent, this
landmark collection showcases Highsmith''s mastery of the short
In a cruel twist of irony, Texas-born Patricia Highsmith
(1921-1995) is being recognized only after her death for her
inestimable genius in her native land. With the savage humor of
Waugh and the macabre sensibility of Poe, she brought a distinctly
contemporary acuteness to her prolific body of noir fiction.
Including over 60 short stories written throughout her career,
collected together for the first time, "The Selected Stories"
reveals the stunning versatility and terrifying power of
These stories highlight the remarkable range of Highsmith''s
powersher unique ability to quickly, almost imperceptibly, draw
out the mystery and strangeness of her subject, which appears
achingly ordinary to our naked eye.
Whether writing about jaded wives or household pets, Highsmith
continually upsets our expectations and presents a world
frighteningly familiar to our own, where danger lurks around every
turn. Stories from "The Animal-Lovers Book of Beastly Murders"
portray, with incisive humor, the murderously competitive desires
of our most trusted companions. In this viciously satirical reprise
of Kafka, cats, dogs, and cockroaches are no longer necessary
aspects of a happy home but actually have the power to destroy it.
In the short sketches that make up the "Little Tales of Misogyny,"
Highsmith rediscovers predictable female characters"The Dancer,"
"The Female Novelist," "The Prude"and, throughscathing humor,
invests them with uniquely destructive powers. As a writer,
Highsmith was all too well aware of the stolid patriarchal
conventions that ruled her dayher publisher rejected her second
book out of handbecause of its homosexual content. She is not a
polemicist, but, as stories like "Oona the Jolly Cave Woman" and
"The Mobile Bed-Object" reveal, her bizarre, haunting fiction
continually betrays the inadequacy of our conventional
understanding of female character.
Highsmith eventually moved away from these coolly satiric, darkly
comic exercises, and in her later collections, "The Black House,"
"Slowly, Slowly in the Wind," and "Mermaids on the Golf Course,"
she uses the warm familiarities of middle-class lifethe manicured
lawns, the cozy uptown apartments, the local pubsas the backbone
for her chilling portrayals. "The Black House," for instance,
explores the small-town male camaraderie and the destructive secret
it masks: in this world, the fact that everyone knows your name is
more likely a curse than a blessing. In the title story of the
final collection presented here, "Mermaids on a Golf-Course," a
man''s extraordinary brush with death endows his everyday desires
with fantastically devastating consequences.
In her later work, Highsmith adds a dimension of penetrating
psychological insight, evoked most vividly in stories like "A
Curious Suicide" and "The Stuff of Madness," where the precarious
line between fantasy and reality is blurred and we experience the
terrifying possibility of slipping between them.
Great writers view the world askew, and in their art they reflect
our world back to us, slightly distorted. "The Selected Stories"
revealsHighsmith''s deft and exacting style, her incisive satirical
intelligence, and her faultless eye for depicting the inner
tremblings of human character. Her world remains all the more
frightening because we recognize it as our own.