The Critic Magazine

Peculiar world of a singular talent

PATRICIA HIGHSMITH WROTE such vertiginously novels one isn’t much surprised to be told that she ate beef straight from the butcher’s block. Nor is one all that startled to learn that having battered a rat to death in her garden, she tossed it through the window of her guests’ bedroom.

But even the most seasoned of her readers — the reader who has, say, made it through that passage in about a teenager masturbating into a sock, or who has empathised (perhaps even sympathised) as Tom Ripley batters a putative friend to death — will probably be astonished to learn that Highsmith kept a rout of snails in her handbag. And they’ll surely be dumbfounded by

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