Patricia Highsmith’s “Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes”

Patricia Highsmith was an American writer (1921-95) most well known for having written the Tom Ripley books — a series of mystery novels about a young homosexual man who assumes others’ identities. This character had been made into a number of different films, including René Clément’s Purple Noon (1960), starring Alain Delon; Wim Wenders’ The American Friend (1979), starring Dennis Hopper and Bruno Ganz; and Anthony Minghella’s The Talented Mr. Ripley (1999), starring Matt Damon, Jude Law, and Philip Seymour Hoffman. She also wrote the novels on which the 1956 Alfred Hitchcock film Strangers on a Train and the 2015 Todd Haynes film Carol were based.

All of this is to say, her contribution to film history is considerable, even if indirect.

With that said, I cannot admit my satisfaction in reading the collection Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes. Honestly not such a great collection of stories. The title seemed alluring — what’s more exciting than a story of a catastrophe and suffering on a large scale … I write, with chagrin — as well as the fact that the book was on sale and by an author that I’d never read.

Had never read Patricia Highsmith because no one had ever recommended her to me, among which I include all of the sources that I’ve read (not merely persons). And so many other things made claims on my time. A lark.

The characters never transcended the level of vague, unnuanced figures that shared familiar traits with other characters one might have read about here and there (or seen on television). 

That may not be wholly true: the first story I read, “Pope Sixtus …,” was more compelling because of the mundanity of a toe injury that went awry. 

GoodReads on Patricia Highsmith’s Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes