What a bunch of complete and utter rot. I have always wanted to read Patricia Highsmith. Strangers on a Train is one of my favourite movies, Ever! and I really enjoyed the Mr. Ripley movie. I have a lot of her books and just haven't got around to them yet. The back of this collection of extremely short, short stories labels them as "mystery/fiction". This is not mystery in any shape or form. I do not know what to make of these stories. If you read my notes that follow as I read the book you'll see my confusion and distaste for the material progress as I went along. I presume these stories are some sort of farcical feminist literature. I found them vulgar, stupid and not in the least humorous at all.
1. The Hand - Gruesome little parable as to the inappropriateness of referring to marriage as asking for "her hand". (4/5)
2. Oona, the Jolly Cave Woman - Don't get this. A "cave woman" is raped at an early age and then over the years admired by all the men, giving herself freely, maintaining the population practically by herself and then the first man to fall in love's (perhaps ever in the tribe) jealous wife kills Oona with the result that the man starts making images of Oona, then statues, worshipping her and eventually is killed himself by a jealous wife whose husband buys such a statue. Anyway I feel hate from the story but can't help feeling it might be a story made up to give a background for the famous "Venus of Willendorf" statue. (2/5)
3. The Coquette - Lying and playing around with people's hearts will turn around on yourself in the end especially when the people involved are a nasty woman and stupid men. (2/5)
4. The Female Novelist - A neurotic woman does nothing but think, talk and write about her past husbands' and lovers' infidelities that her current husband seems bound for the same end ... to her satisfaction? (1/5)
Uggh! These are horrible stories! What am I supposed to be getting from them? I know it's some kind of feminist twaddle, but am I supposed to have feelings for these vile women? On to the next one:
5. The Dancer - Sigh ... Two ballroom dancers are lovers and do a tango where the man enacts almost strangling the woman which is a huge hit but then the woman stops sleeping with the man to raise his ardour and takes on other lovers. The man does not like being teased this way and the ending comes as no shock. (1/5)
6. The Invalid, or, The Bedridden - Well for some reason I did find this funny. A woman pretends injury and consequent permanent invalidity to capture a husband, though she is always up to a trip to Cannes in August. It takes the husband 11 years to catch on and then he does the expected gaining a much more satisfying life. (4/5)
7. The Artist - This is odd compared to the other stories. A women takes up the arts, moving from one to another in succession eventually leaving her husband alone, lonely and doing all the housework himself until as usual the woman's death ends the relationship, only this time it is an accident. In this story, neither the man or woman is portrayed as selfish, evil or stupid like the other ones. The woman is actually sympathetic. She talks of wanting beauty and she is obviously looking for something in her life. They are both lonely figures; the woman looking for something to fulfill herself, the man losing the companionship of his wife. (4/5)
Strange. Why in the middle of the book do we suddenly not have a vile, manipulative woman?? I can't figure out what Highsmith is getting at here. Onward I go.
8. The Middle-Class Housewife - Oh God. What do I say. A daughter takes her poor mother to a Women's Lib rally at a local church which ends in mob violence and death after the mother questions "free state nurseries". Poor woman. Thank God we haven't descended that far into Hell yet in this socialist country. (1/5)
9. The Fully Licensed Whore, or, the Wife - Oh boy, with a title like that I think I'm in for another viscous woman story. Yep! A woman gets married, two months pregnant with another man's son, so that she can live a life of amorous affairs and be a licensed, legal "player of the field". Again we can either feel sorry for the man or just disregard him for being so stupid as to fall for her schemes. (2/5)
Just to let my readers know. I am aware that these stories are supposed to be some sort of satire. Perhaps a reader with feminist attitudes would have tears rolling down their face at the absurdity of these tales. I'm getting nothing though. Just quick little stories about icky people and they are so nasty they are not funny, to me, anyway.
10. The Breeder - This title cannot mean good things. A man literally goes mad after fathering seventeen children with his wife in not even so many years. Don't know what to say here, they are both as bad but really it boils down to having respect and communication in a proper marriage which neither of them had. Yick. (2/5)
11. The Mobile Bed-Object - The "bed-object" is a 23-year-old woman who is a professional mistress. She enjoys this, travels all over the world and beats boredom when her men trade her to others. However, she realizes that her youth is going for this business and she must retire soon so starts thinking of how to build a nest egg. While she thinks she is using men, they are using her. This story I felt for the woman, although she was a hard schemer who took advantage of men. The men were unsympathetic as they were users with no emotions at all. So while, I didn't like the woman, and she gets what can be expected by those in her lifestyle at the end, she at least is not a totally unsympathetic creature. (3/5)
BTW, these last two stories were very long for this collection: 6 pages!
12. The Perfect Little Lady - A vile scheming little girl who turns into the same as a teenager, gleeful when her opponents suffer misfortune. (3/5)
13. The Silent Mother-in-Law - Edna lives with her daughter and son-in-law and afraid of ever being the butt of mother-in-law jokes remains utterly silent on all accounts, actually infuriating the couple so much that one night they come home from a party, take off their clothes and ring the bell to get a rise out of her. I think there is something I'm not getting in this one; I had to read the ending a few times but it is alluding me. (2/5)
14. The Prude - A mother is determined that her 4 daughters be virgins at the altar as she and her husband were. They disobey and the story glorys in how fornication has made the girls' lives so much more wonderful, happier and prosperous than their morally astute parents. Bleck! (0/5)
15. The Victim - What to make of this ... I suppose we could call it a fable to be told to girls to warn them against dressing like sluts and attracting the attention and consequences such attire and accompanying behaviour is most likely to garner. Is this humour? Even so, it basically insults everyone, male and female, feminists and those who embrace womanhood. Another yick. But the story does get some points for writing and plotting. (2/5)
16. The Evangelist - I'm just shaking my head, really. A woman finds profound religion and becomes a street preacher, then she becomes famous around the world and like all these stories meets an untimely demise. Ridiculous. (1/5)
Thank goodness the last one!
17. The Perfectionist - The most bizarre story of the lot but at least this woman is not vile or viscous and does not end up dead. The poor dear has a nervous break down and ends up knitting every day from 6am to 2am. (0/5)