My Book World
This more than fifty-year compendium of Highsmith’s 8,000 pages of diary and notebook entries is a stunning read—particularly if you savor the voyeuristic practice of reading someone’s private thoughts. Her diary entries are brutally honest about everything from her current girlfriend(s) with whom she is madly in love to resentments toward her mother, estranged father, and stepfather. Though bright enough to graduate from Barnard, she never quite masters the art of achieving a meaningful love relationship; her tone seems the same for fifty years. I can’t understand why this relationship has failed. And yet, I believe she does know why: her profession requires much alone time, which is not compatible with a needy lover.
Her notebooks, on the other hand, are about her current and proposed works, sometimes a poem here and there. She also talks business. About her agent(s), once her sales go international. Her publishers. Friendships, lasting ones at that, with a broad range of writers. Strong female writers (mostly part of a lesbian group of professionals) mentor Highsmith on how to navigate the heady waters of being a single woman sometimes writing about being queer. Early on, when she is young, she has sex and “love” relationships with a few men, but none of them is every satisfying.
What may be most fascinating is to watch how her life and living influence particular books. The Ripley series of five novels has such an authentic, European backdrop because besides being multilingual, Highsmith lives in Europe much of her life. Still, having been born in Fort Worth, Texas, she does return there to visit once her parents move back from New York. Yet she harbors deep resentments against her abusive mother, who lives to be ninety-five (PH nearly perceives it as a punishment), and, because of her own health problems, fails to visit upon her mother’s own funeral. A sad but triumphant ending for a triumphant but oft-times sad and lonely life. If readers have time, it is well worth theirs to read these 1,000 pages, especially if they’re curious about the writer who authored Strangers on a Train and the Ripley series of five novels, a total of thirty-two books.
NEXT FRIDAY: My Book World | Hermann Hesse's Rosshalde.