Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

The Talented Mr. Ripley, Patricia Highsmith

I've been picking through Highsmith's work here and there, and as many well know, The Talented Mr. Ripley is a classic thriller. Tom Ripley is a model anti-hero, disconcertingly sympathetic even as he's drowning a pal and assuming his identity or thudding the friend of a friend over the head with a heavy ashtray to kill him. Highsmith may have been one of the first to evoke a psychopath so clearly and dispassionately; I saw a bit of her influence in Alissa Nutting's Tampa, where the character of Celeste is a well-drawn predator with a lack of remorse similar to Ripley's own.

Highsmith's life was colorful in its own right; in Carmela Ciuraru's Nom De Plume, I seem to remember an anecdote about Highsmith (who used the pseudonym Claire Morgan to write The Price of Salt) smuggling snails into a country by nesting them in her bosom. Joan Schenkar's The Talented Miss Highsmith is calling to me from the shelf, but it might have to wait until I read the rest of the Ripley books.

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