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Lovers on a Train

Susannah Clapp

10 January 1991
by Patricia Highsmith.
Bloomsbury, 240 pp., £13.99, October 1990, 0 7475 0719 8
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... is elliptical, and whose secrets are guilty. They are called Ivy Compton-Burnett, Muriel Spark and Beryl Bainbridge. All have crime at the heart of their novels. None of them is a crime novelist. PatriciaHighsmith is. And in making murder her main point, she has avoided being thought of primarily as a woman novelist. She has made a career of producing books of settled menace, in which acts of ...

Death for Elsie

Christopher Ricks

7 August 1986
Found in the Street 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 277 pp., £9.95, April 1986, 9780434335244
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Private Papers 
by Margaret Forster.
Chatto, 214 pp., £8.95, February 1986, 0 7011 2987 5
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... PatriciaHighsmith has been praised by Graham Greene in the good old way as ‘a writer who has created a world of her own’. She can be even better than that – when she takes a world and makes it not only her own ...

Ugly Stuff

Ian Hamilton

15 October 1981
Beyond the Pale 
by William Trevor.
Bodley Head, 256 pp., £6.95, October 1981, 9780370304427
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The Black House 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 258 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 434 33518 5
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Lantern Lecture 
by Adam Mars-Jones.
Faber, 197 pp., £6.95, September 1981, 0 571 11813 5
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... days. Glencorn Lodge was derelict then.   ‘You’ve had a bit of a shock, old thing,’ Dekko said. Strafe agreed, kindly adding, ‘Look dear, if the chap actually interfered with you ...’ PatriciaHighsmith’s new collection is as disappointing as her earlier collections, and even the most besotted admirers of her novels must concede that the short story is a form she ought to be restrained ...

Not a desire to have him, but to be like him

Slavoj Žižek: Highsmith​ is the One

21 August 2003
Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia​ Highsmith 
by Andrew Wilson.
Bloomsbury, 534 pp., £25, June 2003, 0 7475 6314 4
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... For me, the name ‘PatriciaHighsmith’ designates a sacred territory: she is the One whose place among writers is that which Spinoza held for Gilles Deleuze (a ‘Christ among philosophers’). I learned a lot about her from Andrew ...

Miss Maigret

Patricia Highsmith

4 October 1984
Intimate Memoirs, including ‘Marie-Jo’s Book’ 
by Georges Simenon, translated by Harold Salemson.
Hamish Hamilton, 815 pp., £14.95, August 1984, 0 241 11219 2
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... This book is already celebrated for its suggestion of an incestuous relationship between Simenon and his only daughter, Marie-Jo, a suicide at 25 in 1978. Any such relationship seems to have been one-sided – on the daughter’s part, and that only in her head. Marie-Jo’s contribution to Intimate Memoirs takes up the last 150 pages, and is called ‘Marie-Jo’s Book’. It consists of her early ...

Beltz’s Beaux

D.A.N. Jones

3 March 1983
by Sholom Aleichem, translated by Aliza Shevrin.
Weidenfeld, 222 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 297 78200 2
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A Coin in Nine Hands 
by Marguerite Yourcenar, translated by Dori Katz.
Aidan Ellis, 192 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 0 85628 123 9
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Entry into Jerusalem 
by Stanley Middleton.
Hutchinson, 172 pp., £7.50, January 1983, 0 09 150950 5
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People Who Knock on the Door 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 306 pp., £7.95, January 1983, 0 434 33521 5
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A Visit from the Footbinder 
by Emily Prager.
Chatto, 174 pp., £7.95, February 1983, 0 7011 2675 2
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by J.M. Coetzee.
Secker, 125 pp., £6.95, January 1983, 9780436102967
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... oath, to London. He could have kept the old bricks and mortar, but he refused to be sentimental.’ Worth, the reader feels sure, is making an entry into temptation, not into triumph. The Jesus of PatriciaHighsmith makes his menacing appearance in Chalmerston, Indiana. People Who Knock on the Door is the story of a sort of Christian martyrdom, observed with total lack of sympathy by the victim’s ...

First Impressions

Fredric Jameson: Slavoj Žižek’s Paradoxes

7 September 2006
The Parallax View 
by Slavoj Žižek.
MIT, 434 pp., £16.95, March 2006, 0 262 24051 3
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... include, in no special order, discussions of Hegel, Marx and Kant; various pre- and post-socialist anecdotes and reflections; notes on Kafka as well as on mass-cultural writers like Stephen King or PatriciaHighsmith; references to opera (Wagner, Mozart); jokes from the Marx Brothers; outbursts of obscenity, scatological as well as sexual; interventions in the history of philosophy, from Spinoza and ...

Fallen Women

Patricia Highsmith

21 June 1984
‘Somebody’s Husband, Somebody’s Son’: The Story of Peter Sutcliffe 
by Gordon Burn.
Heinemann, 272 pp., £9.95, May 1984, 0 434 09827 2
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... Gordon Burn gives us no comment of his own on the story he has to tell – just the facts: no speculation as to why Peter Sutcliffe behaved as he did, just the events, the family life, anecdotes that may or may not be pertinent, the pubs and their atmosphere. And we go back, or rather from the beginning of the book we go forward – from Sutcliffe’s grandparents on both sides. How else is he to explain ...

Star Turn

Peter Campbell

2 August 1984
Pitch Dark 
by Renata Adler.
Hamish Hamilton, 144 pp., £8.95, July 1984, 9780241113134
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... encounters. Her behaviour is more than agitated, less than mad. The menace which is inherent in her being a woman on her own in an isolated house in a strange country (Daphne Du Maurier out of PatriciaHighsmith) is exploited in scenes where it seems things are going on which are being kept from her – but is she imagining it? Then she is in London. There are phone calls about a reconciliation ...

Major and Minor

Frank Kermode

6 June 1985
The Oxford Companion to English Literature 
edited by Margaret Drabble.
Oxford, 1155 pp., £15, April 1985, 0 19 866130 4
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... Henrietta Temple no longer gets its plot summarised; Hesiod’s date used to be eighth cent. BC? and is now just eighth cent. BC; hermeticism replaces Hermes, Georgette Heyer the Hexenhammer, PatriciaHighsmith Hildesheim or possibly the Heythrop Hunt. Adrian Henri, but not R. McGough or B. Patten, is allowed in, perhaps because he fitted better into the space left by Henri IV. Sometimes both ...

Pseud’s Corner

John Sutherland

17 July 1980
by Dan Kavanagh.
Cape, 181 pp., £4.95, July 1980, 0 224 01822 1
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Moscow Gold 
by John Salisbury.
Futura, 320 pp., £1.10, March 1980, 0 7088 1702 5
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The Middle Ground 
by Margaret Drabble.
Weidenfeld, 248 pp., £5.95, June 1980, 0 297 77808 0
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The Boy Who Followed Ripley 
by Patricia Highsmith.
Heinemann, 292 pp., £6.50, April 1980, 0 434 33520 7
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... notes, in support of this, the prominence in the novels of heroes like Gordon Comstock who break with their stultifying families. And it is interesting, in the light of the works reviewed here, that PatriciaHighsmith also seems to have been one of those who felt the need to rename herself before going on to make a name for herself as a novelist. With George Eliot – the most famous nom de plume in ...

How criminals think

John Lanchester

13 September 1990
Love and Death on Long Island 
by Gilbert Adair.
Heinemann, 138 pp., £10.95, July 1990, 9780434006229
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Going wrong 
by Ruth Rendell.
Hutchinson, 250 pp., £12.99, September 1990, 0 09 174300 1
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The Burden of Proof 
by Scott Turow.
Bloomsbury, 515 pp., £13.99, August 1990, 0 7475 0673 6
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Crucible of Fools 
by M.S. Power.
Hamish Hamilton, 165 pp., £12.99, August 1990, 0 241 13006 9
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... and detectives – men in the grip of a righteous desire to find the truth. The motivation of wrong-doers in thrillers and crime fiction tends to be pretty perfunctorily sketched, and is – PatriciaHighsmith excepted – almost invariably told rather than shown. Ruth Rendell’s great strength as a practitioner of the two genres has been her genuine interest in the psychology of the ...

Hiss and Foam

Anne Diebel: Tana French

26 September 2019
The Wych Elm 
by Tana French.
Penguin, 528 pp., £6.99, September, 978 0 241 37953 0
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... has gained a following over the past decade for her riveting series of police procedurals, the Dublin Murder Squad series. She has been celebrated as a stylish genre defier, in the tradition of PatriciaHighsmith and Richard Price – and her books sell. French’s opening salvo was leaving one of the chief mysteries in her first novel, In the Woods, unsolved. Since then, she has demonstrated ...

Writing Absurdity

Adam Shatz: Chester Himes

25 April 2018
Chester B. Himes: A Biography 
by Lawrence P. Jackson.
Norton, 606 pp., £25, July 2017, 978 0 393 06389 9
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... another success of its kind. He barely published a word for the next five years. In 1948 he went to Yaddo to revise his prison novel, but spent much of his time getting drunk, and trying to seduce PatriciaHighsmith, a 26-year-old Barnard graduate from a Texas slaveholding family who ‘consistently tried to tackle Chester on his own turf: evil and sexuality’. Himes was writing about his affair with ...


D.A.N. Jones

1 November 1984
by William Kennedy.
Viking, 227 pp., £7.95, September 1984, 0 670 40176 5
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In Custody 
by Anita Desai.
Heinemann, 204 pp., £9.95, October 1984, 9780434186358
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Flaubert’s Parrot 
by Julian Barnes.
Cape, 190 pp., £8.50, October 1984, 0 241 11374 1
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... feature is Anita Desai’s self-confidence and plausibility when dealing with males and their dealings with one another while no woman is present: in this she resembles the more hard-hearted PatriciaHighsmith. It is not until page 58 that a woman appears – and then she is presented as a shrewish wife. In fact, all three of the principal females are seen as shrewish wives: yet somehow, with ...

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