“Carol” | The Weinstein Company – Rooney Mara, left, and Cate Blanchett | Wilson Webb/AP | 15489
Fans of the unsettling thrillers of Patricia Highsmith – and their many movie adaptations – should prepare for a new classic among Highsmith movies in Carol, Todd Haynes’s sombrely rapturous filming of the most atypical work in the author’s oeuvre, her early lesbian romance The Price Of Salt. Published in 1952 under a pseudonym, it enjoyed cult bestseller status with a largely lesbian readership for 30 years,
writes John Patterson in The Guardian reviewing the new film “Carol” which is an adaptation of her 1950s book “The Price of Salt”.
The original edition | 15490
When The Price of Salt was first published in paperback in 1953, Highsmith was flooded with thousands of letters from readers. The letters came addressed to the author “Claire Morgan,” the pseudonym she had used for the book. Highsmith had been working in a department store while submitting mystery stories to digest-size magazines.
While by no means the first novel to tackle lesbian issues, the book became successful. Nathan Smith commented,
“The Price of Salt” was a landmark book for queer America, offering readers a powerful and hopeful ending.”
Moreover it started a publishing phenomenon.
As a 25-cent paperback with a lurid cover, The Price of Salt entered a growing market. A wave of lesbian pulp novels had first begun being published in the early 1950s, notably Women’s Barracks (1950) and Spring Fire (1952), both of which sold more of than a million copies each. Although these paperbacks were marketed as a cheap and tawdry form of entertainment, they offered many women solace and comfort in the knowledge that they were not the only ones struggling with their sexual identity. As an act of secretive reading, the lesbian pulp novel formed an invisible lesbian community,
explains Smith in New Republic.
Patricia Highsmith | Uncredited/Denver Library | 15491
American novelist and short story writer Mary Patricia Plangman (Patricia Highsmith) was born on January 19, 1921 in Texas and died on February 4 1995. Her grandmother taught her to read and write and by the age of 9 she is said to have read and enjoyed The Human Mind by Karl Menninger, about Freudian analysis. Her short stories started appearing in print from 1942. Her first novel, Strangers on a Train, was published in 1950 and became a famous Hitchcock film. The Price of Salt was her second novel, although she did not associate herself with it publicly for many years.
Patricia Highsmith was an unusual individual who was fonder of cats than other people yet had the ability to communicate so well with so many people. She may have been an alcoholic. Wikipedia records that
Highsmith had sexual relationships with women and men. She never married or had children.
Highsmith died of aplastic anemia and cancer in Locarno, Switzerland, aged 74, with her place and importance in gay history and gay literature, assured.