Patricia Highsmith | Critical Review by Alex Raskin

This literature criticism consists of approximately 1 page of analysis & critique of Patricia Highsmith.
This section contains 291 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Alex Raskin

Critical Review by Alex Raskin

SOURCE: A review of Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes, in Los Angeles Times Book Review, February 5, 1989, p. 4

In the following review, Raskin offers a mixed assessment of Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes, commenting on Highsmith's "wry portrayals of human folly."

The catastrophes [in Tales of Natural and Unnatural Catastrophes] actually are all "unnatural," prompted when Patricia Highsmith's bizarre, blundering characters attempt to defy nature: the defense tactics of a high-rise crumble against a crawling army that fumigation can't kill; the Nuclear Regulatory Commission finds that its hiding place for nuclear waste isn't so sporting after all; a Japanese whaling ship gets its due after a day harpooning whales.

While best known as a writer of thrillers, Highsmith, a Texas-born author now living in Switzerland, is primarily concerned with crafting stories to evoke the human comedy. Her wry portrayals of human folly sometimes lack sympathy, as in the tasteless piece "Rent-a-Womb," which trivializes the abortion debate. But Highsmith condescends wittily and without favor, and so we soon cease to take offense, enjoying stories we might otherwise have dismissed as prejudiced.

"Mabuti," for example, satirizes the dictator of a small African nation, who frantically tries to prepare for the arrival of a United Nations delegation, burning everything from garbage to corpses and trying to transform Government House, a brothel with "a couple of rooms holding papers with which the country gained its independence," into a "building like the Parthenon." Everything goes awry, of course: The city is shrouded in smoke from the burning when the delegation arrives and the Government house erupts in a conflagration when Mabuti soldiers try to "properly" cremate people who had died in an elevator. The U.N. members are less-than-pleased—so Bomo has them shot.

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This section contains 291 words
(approx. 1 page at 300 words per page)
Buy the Critical Review by Alex Raskin
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