Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Woman Who Loved Highsmith: In a Memoir of Her Affair with Patricia Highsmith (the Talented Mr. Ripley), Marijane Meaker Also Outs Herself as One of the Era's Talked-About Lesbian Authors. (Books)

Magazine article The Advocate (The national gay & lesbian newsmagazine)

The Woman Who Loved Highsmith: In a Memoir of Her Affair with Patricia Highsmith (the Talented Mr. Ripley), Marijane Meaker Also Outs Herself as One of the Era's Talked-About Lesbian Authors. (Books)

Article excerpt

She wasn't exactly a role model. Patricia Highsmith may have written one of the first lesbian books to have a happy ending, 1952's pseudonymously penned The Price of Salt, but her private life wasn't nearly as uplifting.

"She fell in love with women who were mean. They ordered her around; they had a sense of entitlement," says Marijane Meaker, whose new memoir about the author, Highsmith: A Romance of the 1950s, will be out this June from Cleis Press. "I was a fluke, just as she was a fluke in my life."

Thanks to that "fluke," Meaker has a unique perspective on a novelist whom most remember as much for her eccentricity as for her classic tales of suspense. Several authors have embarked on Highsmith biographies since her death in 1995, their imaginations spurred by such bizarre details as her penchant for carrying snails in her purse. In this account of Highsmith's life--one of two Highsmith studies to appear this summer--Meaker crafts a deeper, more complex portrait of the author of The Talented Mr. Ripley and Strangers on a Train.

"She went to pieces in social settings," Meaker says. She just got drunk. I think it had to do with a shyness about her sexuality, I really do. She was a little older than I was, and of course even my generation had terrible shame about it. We accepted the idea that we were abnormal and all the things that happened in the '50s."

No one knows that era's restrictions and indignities better than Meaker. Under the name Ann Aldrich, she wrote two classic nonfiction accounts of lesbian life, 1955's We Walk Alone Through Lesbos' Lonely Groves and a follow-up, 1958's We, Too, Must Love. As much as Highsmith is about a love affair, it's also a memoir of an intimate community forged out of cultural silence. …

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