Patricia Highsmith

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Patricia Highsmith (January 19, 1921 – February 4, 1995) was an American novelist and short-story writer most widely known for her psychological thrillers, which have led to more than two dozen film adaptations. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train has been adapted for stage and screen numerous times, notably by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951. In addition to her acclaimed series about murderer Tom Ripley, she wrote many short stories, often macabre, satirical or tinged with black humour. Although she wrote specifically in the genre of crime fiction, her books have been lauded by various writers and critics as being artistic and thoughtful enough to rival mainstream literature. Michael Dirda observed that, "Europeans honoured her as a psychological novelist, part of an existentialist tradition represented by her own favourite writers, in particular Dostoevsky, Conrad, Kafka, Gide, and Camus."[1]

Contents

Early life

Highsmith was born Mary Patricia Plangman in Fort Worth, Texas. She lived in her maternal grandmother's boarding house with her mother, and later her stepfather. In 1927 she moved to New York City with her mother and stepfather. When Highsmith was 12 years old, she was taken to Fort Worth and lived with her grandmother for a year. She called this the "saddest year" of her life, and felt abandoned by her mother. She returned to New York to continue living with her mother and stepfather, Stanley Highsmith. Highsmith's mother Mary had divorced "Patsy's" father (Jay Bernard Plangman)[2] five months before her birth, and he is absent from the family's history after that. The young Highsmith had an intense, complicated relationship with her mother and resented her stepfather, although she took his surname, and in later years she sometimes tried to win him over to her side of the argument in her confrontations with her mother. According to Highsmith, her mother once told her that she had tried to abort her by drinking turpentine. Highsmith never resolved this love-hate relationship, which haunted her for the rest of her life, and which she fictionalized in her short story "The Terrapin", about a young boy who stabs his mother to death.

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