Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes

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

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