ffb: Eleven

this is the 121st in my series of posts on forgotten or seldom read books

Eleven by Patricia Highsmith © 1970, Doubleday 1970 hardcover, this edition: 1978 Penguin mass market paperback, mystery-horror short story collection

ElevenI expect there will be much praise and positive comment about Patricia Highsmith in today’s Friday Forgotten books review set, but let me admit this right up front: Highsmith is not an author whose work I particularly like. In the past I’ve tried two of the novels and found both of them  depressing, with nothing redeeming about the characters – the ones who survived – and was left with a sour taste in my mouth.

It was, then, with some trepidation that I approached the task of finding something to read for this single author FFB challenge. So, instead of trying another novel, I decided to read short stories. The wisdom of this choice is unclear. Certainly the stories, being shorter, left less time for the author to sink me into her dark world, but she was very  successful in giving me several hard shoves into it instead.

The stories in Eleven range from strange to outright dark and brutal. There are odd characters with barely explainable motivations who do unusual things and always pay for those actions in some unpleasant way. Unsettling may be the best word for these stories, and if you happen to have either a liking or phobia about snails, you get a double dose here. I was afraid I’d have nightmares about the creatures, and I’m not given to such things.

If you like this sort of thing, you’ll love this book, these stories. I don’t, and probably won’t be reading any further in the Highsmith bibliography.

Eleven contains:

-The Snail-Watcher
-The Birds Poised to Fly
-The Terrapin
-When the Fleet was in at Mobile
-The Quest for “Blank Claveringi”
-The Cries of Love
-Mrs. Afton, Among Thy Green Braes
-The Heroine
-Another Bridge to Cross
-The Barbarians
-The Empty Birdcage

~  ~  ~  ~  ~

The rest of the Friday Forgotten Book posts
can be found at Patti Abbott’s fine blog Pattinase

About Richard Robinson

Enjoying life in Portland, OR
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10 Responses to ffb: Eleven

  1. It sounds fairly interesting to me. I might give it a try. I’ve never read anything by her.

  2. Many readers have your reaction to Patricia Highsmith’s work, Rick. Depression, madness, and murder mingle in most of her books and short stories. I enjoy her work in small doses.

  3. Jeff Meyerson says:

    I’ve never had much success in reading her either. I was going to go with one of the short story collections but in the end I forgot and just skipped it. Too many books, too little time to bother with an author I don’t like.

  4. Richard says:

    Interesting, there seems to be less positive reaction than anticipated, though I’ll bet whomever suggested Highsmith likes her novels, or some of them.

  5. John says:

    I’ve read many of Highsmith’s novels and found something to wow me in each of them. Like Patti has stated in a comment on someone else’s blog, I also share Highsmith’s worldview and so it’s easier for me to get involved with her obsessive characters, their dark motives and their hidden deisres, sometimes achieved more often than not sublimated into something unwanted as a poor substitute. I have yet to try her short stories.

  6. Richard says:

    John, there seems to be little middle ground on Highsmith, judging from today’s reviews. Either like her books a lot or not at all. It’s good that you find something good in each. I haven’t had that same reaction, but we both know not every book and author is for every reader!

  7. Kelly says:

    Even though I reviewed some of the stories for this week’s event, I would never recommend them to someone who doesn’t like her work, or as an introduction to someone who doesn’t know it. It’s not her best work by a long shot, and I only enjoy some of the stories myself for the insight I get into her as a person, or the glimmers of themes I see in her other better work. I’m shocked, though, to hear how many people don’t like her work at ALL. I think some of her novels are the best in the biz.

  8. Richard says:

    Kelly, I gave up after two novels and a book of short stories. I think that’s a fair try for any author. Some authors and readers just aren’t a good fit. I’ll take William Kent Krueger or Louise Penny any day, or John Harvey, Colin Dexter or Peter Robinson for Brit authors.

  9. Julian Symons in his book BLOODY MURDER recounts how his publisher, Victor Gollancz, would ask for suggestions for crime novels to read over the summer but pleaded for no more by Highsmith – I fear you are right about the lack of a middle-ground 🙂

  10. Richard says:

    Sergio, That anecdote was in one of the reviews I read today.

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