Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes

Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes

by Patricia Highsmith
     
 

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In this eerily up-to-date collection, Highsmith’s incisive prose chronicles a world gone slightly mad, its catastrophes precipitated by human folly and excess. From the White House under siege by the homeless to a 190-year-old woman perpetually near death and dimly glowing, each tale unfolds the illogical extremes of humanity in the late twentieth century.

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Overview

In this eerily up-to-date collection, Highsmith’s incisive prose chronicles a world gone slightly mad, its catastrophes precipitated by human folly and excess. From the White House under siege by the homeless to a 190-year-old woman perpetually near death and dimly glowing, each tale unfolds the illogical extremes of humanity in the late twentieth century. Highsmith transmogrifies the face of daily existence to lay bare its manifold dark motives. These stories leave us haunted with “afterimages that will tremble—but stay—in our minds” (The New Yorker).

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:
9780871133410
Publisher:
Grove/Atlantic, Inc.
Publication date:
01/28/1994
Series:
Highsmith, Patricia Series
Edition description:
1st Atlantic Monthly Press pbk. ed
Pages:
192
Product dimensions:
5.46(w) x 8.27(h) x 0.51(d)

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