Torea Frey

Editor, writer, photographer, observer on the street.

The Talented Miss Highsmith, Joan Schenkar

This untraditional biography traces the life and loves of Patricia Highsmith, writer of such classics as The Talented Mr. RipleyStrangers on a Train, and The Price of Salt. Characterized by one editor as "the most unloving and unlovable person I've ever known ... a really terrible human being," it's nonetheless hard to look away from these fleeting glimpses of an eccentric. I'd read it again for the disquieting anecdotes alone:  at various points, we see Pat smuggling snails into France by concealing them under her breasts, toting tortoises along to parties, spooking house guests by jumping out at them from behind a tree, flinging dead rats through open windows, leaning over a burning candle at a dinner party to set her hair on fire, scrawling love notes for her mistress on her mirrors with red lipstick, and posing "with terrifying hostility" amid a wall "hung with her saws and hammers."

A fascinating, if rather long, exploration of a woman who perhaps remains unknowable in her strange genius.