Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith

Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith

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by Patricia Highsmith

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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 story form.
In a cruel twist of irony, Texas-born Patricia Highsmith (1921-1995) is being recognized only after her


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 story form.
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 Highsmith's work.
These stories highlight the remarkable range of Highsmith's powers her 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, through scathing humor, invests them with uniquely destructive powers. As a writer, Highsmith was all too well aware of the stolid patriarchal conventions that ruled her day her publisher rejected her second book out of hand because 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 life the manicured lawns, the cozy uptown apartments, the local pubs as 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. Inher 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 reveals Highsmith'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.

Editorial Reviews
The Barnes & Noble Review
Best known for her novels (The Talented Mr. Ripley, Strangers on a Train, A Suspension of Mercy, and others) Highsmith is an all-too-frequently forgotten master of the short story. These stories in this volume examine the dark soul of humanity in a deceptively simple voice that draws you in and won't let go. The sheer beauty of the streamlined prose disguises a complexity of character and situation that is the mark of a true master.

Highsmith's ability to create believable characters with very little exposition, but rather through their behavior and dialog, is incredible. None of the stories in this volume is particularly long, but you're drawn in and seduced by the power of the prose. Whether it's a cat driven to commit murder to protect his mistress ("Ming's Biggest Prey"), a rat exacting a horrible revenge on a family that maimed him ("The Bravest Rat in Venice"), or a house party interrupted by something grisly ("Something the Cat Dragged In"), these stories are impossible to put down.

A great example of Highsmith's artistry is "Mermaids on the Golf Course," about a presidential adviser who took an assassin's bullet to protect the president. This seemingly heroic man is slowly exposed throughout the story as something completely different, mainly through his dialogue and the reactions of his family to him. Highsmith deftly exposes the many layers in his character, shows that the surface we see often disguises the truth below, and asks the question, "How well do we know anyone?"

Likewise, "The Female Novelist" is so consumed with herself and her craft that she destroys herself. "The Hand" is a chilling twist on the age-old custom of asking for someone's hand in marriage. Highsmith's stories linger on after they are read, and show that for true horror, you don't need the supernatural; you merely need to write about people. (Greg Herren)

For eliciting the menace that lurks in familiar surroundings, there's no one like Patricia Highsmith.
Her best stories have a hallucinatory screwiness....[R]eaders are sure to be left feeling by turns startled, oppressed, amused and queasy.
Janet Maslin
A fascinating artifact, and a difficult book to put down.
New York Times
New York Times Book Review
Her best stories have a hallucinatory screwiness....[R]eaders are sure to be left feeling by turns startled, oppressed, amused and queasy.
Library Journal
Highsmith's growing posthumous reputation is based on her elegant literary thrillers, which rely on nuanced character study to build tension incrementally, as in Strangers on a Train (1950) or the classic Ripley novels. Highsmith's stories, which are less well known, are mostly nasty, brutish, and short and remarkably effective. Graham Greene calls them "quick kills," and the primary objective seems to be to shock the reader. This selection reprints five collections of short fiction from the 1970s and 1980s. The Animal-Lover's Book of Beastly Murder (1975) is entirely devoted to stories about long-suffering animals who seek revenge on their human tormentors, like the rat who mutilates a sleeping infant or the enraged chickens who escape from an automated hen house. Every story in the aptly titled Little Tales of Misogyny (1977) illustrates an offensive female stereotype, such as "The Breeder," who has so many children that her husband finally goes insane, or "The Perfectionist," who never recovers from an overly ambitious dinner party. When these two collections were first published, their tight thematic organization seemed a bit over the top and probably worked against wide readership. Selected Stories is a big improvement over the original publications in terms of variety and balance, making this the definitive Highsmith story collection. Highly recommended. [Previewed in Prepub Alert, LJ 4/15/01.] Edward B. St. John, Loyola Law Sch. Lib., Los Angeles Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information.
Kirkus Reviews
This massive tome reprints five of the seven complete collections of short stories by Highsmith (1921-95), together with a brief introduction by Graham Greene excerpted from a sixth. Little Tales of Misogyny (1974) identifies and coldly condemns such types as "The Coquette" and "The Breeder"; The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder (1975) presents animals turning on their human companions; and the remaining volumes-Slowly, Slowly in the Wind (1979), The Black House (1981), and Mermaids on the Golf Course (1985) show the pioneering novelist of psychological suspense in equally remorseless form, anatomizing the kinds of human frailty that can as easily erupt in murder as in murderous resentment.

Product Details

Norton, W. W. & Company, Inc.
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8.16(w) x 5.38(h) x 1.27(d)

Meet the Author

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

Brief Biography

Date of Birth:
January 19, 1921
Date of Death:
February 4, 1995
Place of Birth:
Fort Worth, Texas
Place of Death:
Locarno, Switzerland
B.A., Barnard College, 1942

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Selected Stories of Patricia Highsmith 5 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 2 reviews.
harstan More than 1 year ago
Known for her novels (see STRANGERS ON A TRAIN and THE TALENTED MR. RIPLEY), the late Patricia Highsmith was also a fabulous short story writer with her myriad of tales containing suspense and believable protagonists even when the star or support cast is an animal. Until this anthology this reviewer had no idea how many and how good her shorts are. --- The collection is divided into five major segments filled with tension and in many cases dark humor. ¿The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder¿ includes thirteen tales of angry animals demanding respect sometimes violently (ask that brave rat) from humans destroying their world. Section Two, ¿The Little Tales of Misogyny¿ contains seventeen tales of morality with choices not always being the high ground. Number three ¿Slowly, Slowly in the Wind¿ holds twelve more classical type horror/sci fi thrillers. ¿The Black House¿ compilation is eleven psychological haunted house tales with quite a human twist. Finally the last grouping, ¿Mermaids on the Golf Course¿ blends horror with loosely put romantic fantasy in eleven fine tales. --- THE SELECTED STORIES OF PATRICIA HIGHSMITH is a fantastic collection that showcases the depth of a great novelist to bring her trademark suspense to the short format. --- Harriet Klausner
Guest More than 1 year ago
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.'