October 29, 2019

Top 10 quotes for Patricia Highsmith’s soon-to-be-released diaries


Your faithful blogger here at MobyLives briefly considered writing a thoughtful entry on the moral and ethical issues of the posthumous publication of a famous person’s diaries.

The peg would have been Liveright’s planned 2021 publication of Patricia Highsmith’s notebooks, which total some 8,000 pages and are split between notes for her professional life and her private reflections.

Grafs from such a blog post might have read: “Should we really circle like vultures around the innermost thoughts of somebody, just because they were once a published writer? Does the public good outweigh whatever posthumous privacy they may deserve?” and “Sure, the executor of her estate may have evidence that Highsmith assumed her notebooks would eventually be read, but isn’t there a line between a scholarly interest in a public figure and a rapacious curiosity for the sordid details of their personal lives?”

You know, noble, thoughtful blogging stuff.

But after reading a couple samples from the upcoming diaries of the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley, The Price of Salt, and Strangers on a Train, the temptation to just put out a “Top 10” list of her best zingers overwhelmed.

So, here! We! Go!

  1. On murder: “Murder is a kind of making love, a kind of possessing.”
  1. On the American male: “He is not really depressed or inhibited by his inherited or environmentally conceived Puritan restraints: he simply has no goal within the sexual situation.”
  1. On having sex with Arthur Koestler: “miserable, joyless”
  1. On the University of Austin’s offer on her literary estate: “the price of a used car”
  1. On having sex with men: “steel wool in the face”
  1. On why she was put in therapy: to “get myself into a condition to be married”
  1. On her love life: “tortuous”
  1. On marriage: “life with any man is no life at all”
  1. On her impossible desires in a homophobic society: “Persistently, I have the vision of a house in the country with the blond wife whom I love, with the children whom I adore, on the land and with the trees I adore […] My God and my beloved, it can never be!” [oops, not exactly a zinger, actually pretty sad…]
  1. On having all of her personal thoughts and feelings published: “No writer would ever betray his secret life. It would be like standing naked in public.”

That was fun!

Except … it somehow turned into a sad post about the moral issues of posthumously publishing a writer’s diaries, didn’t it…



Athena Bryan is an editor at Melville House.