Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes [NOOK Book]

Overview


The legendary writer Patricia Highsmith is best remembered today for her chilling psychological thrillers The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, which was made into the classic film by Alfred Hitchcock and Raymond Chandler. A critically-acclaimed best seller in Europe, Highsmith struggled during her life for recognition in the United States, but since her death in 1995 Highsmith’s reputation has grown tremendously, and she is now recognized as one of the signature voices of the troubled twentieth ...
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Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes

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Overview


The legendary writer Patricia Highsmith is best remembered today for her chilling psychological thrillers The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train, which was made into the classic film by Alfred Hitchcock and Raymond Chandler. A critically-acclaimed best seller in Europe, Highsmith struggled during her life for recognition in the United States, but since her death in 1995 Highsmith’s reputation has grown tremendously, and she is now recognized as one of the signature voices of the troubled twentieth century. “When the dust has settled,” critic A.N. Wilson wrote, “and when the chronicle of twentieth-century American literature comes to be written, history will place Highsmith at the top of the pyramid, as we should place Dostoevsky at the top of the Russian hierarchy of novelists.”

Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes is the last short fiction published during Highsmith's lifetime. The ten eerily up-to-date stories chronicle a world gone slightly mad; environmental degradation, apocalyptic disaster, political chaos, and religious conservatism are captured in incisive prose that leaves us haunted with “afterimages that will tremble—but stay—in our minds” (The New Yorker).
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Master storyteller Highsmith Mermaids on the Golf Course offers an eerily up-to-date collection of modern horror tales. On the cutting edge of technology are ``Operation Balsam; Or Touch Me Not,'' about the government's problems in disposing of nuclear waste and an ingenious bureaucrat's solution, and ``Rent-a-Womb vs. the Mighty Right,'' where surrogate mothers unionize and take on the religious fundamentalists. ``President Buck Jones Rallies and Waves the Flag'' culminates with the end of the world, while ``Trouble at Jade Towers'' embodies one of the city dweller's worst nightmaresenormous, unkillable roaches. Most of the stories take current trends to their logical and horrific conclusions, as in ``Sweet Freedom! And a Picnic on the White House Lawn,'' which concerns the wholesale release of ``harmless'' patients from mental institutions. Highsmith looks at our civilization with a remorseless eye. Almost anyone trying to change things for the better is destroyed, even the Pope in ``Sixtus VI, Pope of the Red Slipper,'' who is martyred trying to bring justice to the poor. Feb.
Library Journal
The richly imagined but brutal fables in Highsmith's newest collection are gothic horror tales mixed with a dash of macabre humor. One is a reprise of Moby Dick told from the furious whale's point of view; another shows scientists experimenting on cancer-ridden corpses. When the corpses are buried in the cemetery behind the hospital, enormous blobs of fungi grow from themeventually to become a great tourist attraction. For Naomi, 190 or 210 years old, there is truly ``No End in Sight.'' She is without one redeeming quality, prompting Highsmith to imply that it is too bad that ``they don't push the old folks over cliffs anymore.'' In Highsmith's grim, sardonic view, people pollute the earth and carry evil within them. Not for the squeamish or the escapist.Marcia Tager, Tenafly, N.J.
From the Publisher
"Whereas we read Stephen King or Ruth Rendell to relish the thrills that come from carefully controlled verbal terror, Highsmith is not to be taken so lightly. She conveys a firm, unshakable belief in the existence of evil—personal, psychological, and political. ... The genius of Tales—and all of Highsmith's writing—is that it is at once deeply disturbing and exhilarating."—Boston Phoenix

“Highsmith is the poet of apprehension rather than fear. … In her short stories Highsmith naturally has to adopt a different method. She is after the quick kill rather than the slow encirclement of the reader, and how admirably and with what field-craft she hunts us down.” —Graham Greene

“One of the truly brilliant short-story writers of the 20th century.” —Otto Penzler

“Highsmith’s genius is in presenting fantasy’s paradox: successes are not what they seem . . . Where in the traditional fairy tale the heroine turns the toad into a prince, in Highsmith’s fable the prince becomes a toad—success is nearly always fatal. … Combining the best features of the suspense genre with the best of existential fiction—a reflection—the stories are fabulous, in all senses of that word.”—Paul Theroux

"You could swear she's writing fact wrapped up in very sly fiction . . . definitely worth reading." —San Francisco Chronicle

"The stories are flush with satire, mischief and menace. Hers is a world consumed by self-destruction, driven by stupidity, greed and self-interest—a place where the human race cannibalizes its own. ... [Her stories] unsettle the soul and dampen the palms."—Harper's Bazaar

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780802194978
  • Publisher: Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
  • Publication date: 11/8/2011
  • Sold by: Barnes & Noble
  • Format: eBook
  • Pages: 192
  • Sales rank: 687,992
  • File size: 492 KB

Meet the Author

Patricia Highsmith
Though she penned such great psychological crime novels as Strangers on a Train and The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith's gifts went largely unrecognized by American readers until recently. Fortunately, Highsmith's bizarre, subtly shaded novels were too good to remain obscure.

Biography

Suspense novels are often described as "chilling," but no one turns down the reader's emotional thermostat quite like Patricia Highsmith, author of such haunting psychological thrillers as Strangers on a Train and creator of the sociopathic series protagonist Tom Ripley. During her life, Highsmith was a popular author in Europe, where she lived; in her native United States, however, her books went sporadically in and out of print for decades. Now, the writer whom Graham Greene called "the poet of apprehension" has finally gained recognition in the States -- not only as a master of the suspense genre, but as a literary author of rare talent.

Highsmith grew up in Texas and New York, but spent most of her adult life in England, France and Switzerland. By most accounts she was a loner who avoided other people, including other writers; but she did have early help in her career from Truman Capote, who got her a stint at the Yaddo writers' colony in New York. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, tells the story of an architect and a psychopath who meet on a train and "swap" murders. The book gained Highsmith considerable fame, especially after it was made into a film by Alfred Hitchcock. A second novel, The Price of Salt, was printed under a pseudonym after her first publishers turned it down. Though her subsequent works didn't sell well in her home country, she kept turning out the kinds of novels and short stories the New Yorker called "bad dreams that keep us thrashing for the rest of the night."

Several movies have been loosely based on Highsmith's books, including Danny DeVito's Hitchcock spoof Throw Momma From the Train; Wim Wenders' The American Friend, adapted from Ripley's Game; and Purple Noon, a French film based on The Talented Mr. Ripley. But it was Academy Award-winning director Anthony Minghella's lush screen adaptation of The Talented Mr. Ripley, released four years after Highsmith's death and 44 years after the book's publication, that introduced Highsmith to a wider audience and led to a rediscovery of her works.

Subtle enough for a seminar yet entertaining enough for the beach, Highsmith's coolly narrated tales of terror display an observant eye for social behavior as well as individual psychology. Most books in the suspense genre provide a hero whose fundamental honesty and decency stand as bulwarks against the evil he or she confronts. But in a Highsmith novel, the reader is alone with victim and victimizer -- and an unsettling sense of empathy with both.

As Francis Wyndham has noted, Highsmith's "peculiar brand of horror comes less from the inevitability of disaster, than from the ease with which it might have been avoided. The evil of her agents is answered by the impotence of her patients -- this is not the attraction of opposites, but in some subtle way the call of like to like. When they finally clash in the climactic catastrophe, the reader's sense of satisfaction may derive from sources as dark as those which motivate Patricia Highsmith's destroyers and their fascinated victims."

Good To Know

Patricia Highsmith was born Mary Patricia Plangman; her parents divorced soon after she was born, however, and she was given her stepfather's last name. After Highsmith graduated from college, she lived for a time with her mother and stepfather in Greenwich Village, where she wrote comic books to support herself, including scripts for the Superman series.

A lesbian herself, Highsmith is thought to have written the first American novel in which a homosexual love story has a happy ending. The novel, The Price of Salt, was published under the pseudonym Claire Morgan; it was reissued in 1984 (as Carol), but didn't appear under the writer's real name until 1991.

Highsmith once told an interviewer that the only suspense writer she read was the master -- Dostoevsky, over and over. In her book Plotting and Writing Suspense Fiction, she wrote, "I think most of Dostoyevsky's books would be called suspense books, were they being published today for the first time. But he would be asked to cut, because of production costs."

The premise of The Talented Mr. Ripley was inspired by Henry James's The Ambassadors, in which a widow sends her fiance from America to Paris to fetch her wayward son.

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    1. Also Known As:
      Mary Patricia Plangman (birth name); Claire Morgan (pen name)
    1. Date of Birth:
      January 19, 1921
    2. Place of Birth:
      Fort Worth, Texas
    1. Date of Death:
      February 4, 1995
    2. Place of Death:
      Locarno, Switzerland

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