This Daedal Planet | Patricia Highsmith, 1921-95

Patricia Highsmith


''If [Patricia Highsmith] saw an acquaintance walking down the sidewalk she would deliberately cross over so as to avoid them. When she came in contact with people, she realised she split herself into many different, false, identities, but, because she loathed lying and deceit, she chose to absent herself completely rather than go through such a charade.''

''[Patricia] was an extremely unbalanced person, extremely hostile and misanthropic and totally incapable of any kind of relationship, not just intimate ones. I felt sorry for her, because it wasn't her fault. There was something in her early days or whatever that made her incapable. She drove everybody away and people who really wanted to be friends ended up putting the phone down on her.''

''[She] was overwhelmed by sensory stimulation - there were too many people and too much noise and she just could not handle the supermarket.''

''The plane of social intercourse,' she said, 'is not the plane of creation, not the plane on which creative ideas fly [...] This is a curious thing, because sometimes the very people we are attracted to or in love with act as effectively as rubber insulators to the spark of inspiration.''

 ''She was hypersensitive to sound and had these communications difficulties. Most of us screen certain things, but she would spit out everything she thought. She was not aware of the nuances of conversation and she didn't realise when she had hurt other people.''

''The moral is: stay alone. Any idea of any close relationship should be imaginary, like any story I am writing. This way no harm is done to me or to any other person'.''

"She never showed her feelings and I never knew what she thought of me. If someone reached out to touch or greet her she would always take one or two steps back. Yet her face was full of life and everything she thoguht or felt you could see in her eyes."


Patricia Highsmith


''Bruno Sager, Highsmith's carer at the end of her life, recalls the delicacy with which the writer would take hold of a spider which had crawled into the house, making sure to deposit it safely in her garden. 'For her human beings were strange - she thought she would never understand them - and perhaps that is why she liked cats and snails so much,' he says.''

 ''There is no depression for the artist except that caused by a return to the self'.''

'''Existence is a matter of unconscious elimination of negative and pessimistic thinking. I mean, to survive at all. And this applies to everyone. We are all suicides under the skin, and under the surface of our lives.''

''The mere thought that she was alone and surrounded by books gave her a near sensuous thrill. As she looked around her room, dark except for the slash of light near her lamp, and saw the vague outlines of her books, she asked herself, 'Have I not the whole world?'''

''In April 1947, she transcribed into her notebook what was, presumably, a real dialogue between herself and her mother, in which Mary accused her of not facing the world. Highsmith replied that she did indeed view the world 'sideways, but since the world faces reality sideways, sideways is the only way the world can be looked at in true perspective.' The problem, Highsmith said, was that her psychic optics were different to those around her, but if that was the case, her mother replied, then she should equip herself with a pair of new spectacles. Highsmith was not convinced. 'Then I need a new birth,' she concluded.''


Andrew Wilson, Beautiful Shadow: A Life of Patricia Highsmith, 2003


Patricia Highsmith

Strangers on a Train, 1950                                  The Talented Mr. Ripley 1955                         This Sweet Sickness, 1960


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  1. "I read about a famous mystery writer who worked for one week in a department store. One day she saw a woman come in and buy a doll. The mystery writer found out the woman’s name, and took a bus to New Jersey to see where the woman lived. That was all. Years later, she referred to this woman as the love of her life. It is possible to imagine a person so entirely that the image resists attempts to dislodge it."


    Amy Hempel / The Collected Stories / 2006

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