RARA-AVIS: Highsmith, Nation review

From: Mbdlevin@aol.com
Date: 03 Dec 2003

I've read about a half dozen Highsmith novels recently (which is just a smattering), and I'd say that the late books are not as good. One late title,
"Found in the Street" is actually okay, strange and a little different, but not as menacing as her other books. (It is also reminiscent of "A Dog's Ransom," which is better than "Found.") The only bad book that I've read by her was
"People Who Knock on Doors." It's about a midwest family, written and set in the 1980s. Highsmith was perhaps too far from her material -- symptomatic: she equates cocaine with angel dust -- and it has a bit of the feel of a juvenile
(the protagonist begins as a high school student). Highsmith called one of her early novels dull, but I can't remember which title it was. Titles from the 50s and 60s that I have read have all been good: "Talented Mr. Ripley" (of course), and also "Two Faces of January" and "Deep Water" (for some readers, these books might be slow, but I found them pretty powerful). Graham Greene called
"A Tremor of Forgery" her masterpiece (or something like that) -- I liked it, but not as much as Greene. Some titles, by the way, may be different in British versions/translations. Highsmith isn't traditionally hard-boiled (which works by me), but I'd say she's definitely worth reading beyond Ripley and
"Strangers on a Train."

Occasional Doug

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