Monday, May 12, 2008

Cool Patricia Highsmith auctions on eBay

I love Patricia Highsmith (links herein are to either Wikipedia pages or auctions). Described variably as a misanthrope, an alcoholic, a bisexual, a lesbian, an antiSemite*, and/or a very strange, cruel, impossible person, Highsmith was unappreciated in her home country (she was born in Texas) and relocated to Europe, where many of her works appeared in translation before being published in English. Highsmith wrote dark, subversive tales of murder and crime, where usually the killers are the sympathetic ones; her best known book is The Talented Mr. Ripley - a subtle and rich novel somewhat dumbed-down for the film adaptation - but my favourites of hers are the early novel Deep Water - a finely-observed and psychologically rich tale of infidelity, publishing, murder and snails; her blackly funny The Cry of the Owl, in which an innocent man - who just happens to be a peeping Tom - is persecuted for crimes that he did not commit (but perhaps in some cases would have liked to); and her various stories in which pets and other "tame" animals rise up and kill their owners (in The Animal Lover's Book of Beastly Murder, for instance, but also in the stories "The Snail-Watcher" and - tho' the snails belong to no-one in this story - "The Quest for Blank Claverengi," both of which appear in a book most often titled Eleven, but originally published as The Snail Watcher. Anyone who has a motif in her work in which snails devour people is all right by me. If you haven't read it, you should check out my tale of a bizarre coincidence involving one of those stories). I have yet to read The Tremor of Forgery, considered her finest book by many. I'm saving it for a time when I need a really good book, and can do it justice...

Anyhow, there are a couple of really cool auctions on eBay at the moment for items pertaining to Highsmith. In the 1950's, she wrote a novel called The Price of Salt; it is usually described as the first lesbian novel in history to have a happy ending. Someone is selling a first edition of it here. There is also an auction for a Bulgarian edition of Strangers on a Train, her first book, famously filmed by Alfred Hitchcock (tho' I gather substantial changes were made to the story). Weirdest and priciest, there is a watercolour for sale that is apparently by Patricia Highsmith's mother.

What I would really like, though - a copy of Miranda the Panda is on the Veranda, a children's book she wrote with Doris Sanders of illustrated nonsense-rhymes involving animals (yes, there is a snail - "a snail in a veil"). I do not know Highsmith's relationship with Sanders - she had many brief relationships in her life, few satisfying (kind of like, um, me); I'm not even sure which of the two illustrated it. Alas, it seldom comes up on eBay, and never on the cheap, and the affordable copies on the Abebooks link above sound like they are soiled and DJ-less, which is no good for me. Anyone shopping for me for Christmas should note how I covet this book. Alas, her bio is not very revealing about this particular work - which, apparently, she did the illustrations for, not the rhymes; nor does it mention her contribution to Exciting Comics, and tales of the superhero Black Terror...

Ahh, and here's a treat I haven't thought to seek out: Youtube footage of Highsmith, talking about her work! ... I'll leave y'all with an image of Black Terror engaged in an act of anti-Japanese propaganda, from those startling racist days of yore:

*Highsmith scores no points by me for being an antiSemite, but I still feel greater kinship with her than with almost any other human female I have heard tell of.

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