LITERATURE

Patricia Highsmith’s Diaries and Notebooks: The New York Years, 1941–1950

Liveright: Norton Jan. 2023. 672p. ed. by Anna von Planta. ISBN 9781324092940. pap. $22. LIT
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Imagine you are a young writer in living in New York City during the 1940s. You find yourself mingling with author Truman Capote, Oscar-winning actress Luise Rainer, and top women journalists, writers, publishers, editors, and artists. You have a complicated and sometimes exhausting love life, and an internal battle balancing classwork at Barnard College, artistic output, and parties in Greenwich Village. This was the life of author Patricia Highsmith (1921–95), and in her diaries readers will find universal themes: the struggle to find meaningful employment; family strife; a desire for independence. Highsmith does not hold back her opinions of others, her tallies of lovers, or descriptions of parties. But beyond her social life, Highsmith also questions her sexuality, her gender, and relationships. Anna von Planta, Highsmith’s longtime editor, acknowledges Highsmith’s flaws and chose to keep entries with cruel or antisemitic comments. Thoroughly annotated introductions for each year provide helpful historical background such as the Lavender Scare, and information about the many people in Highsmith’slife.
VERDICT Readers will get an intimate look at LGBTQ life in the 1940s. A great read for aspiring writers, devotees of LGBTQ history, and those who enjoy reading about an artist’s evolution.
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