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Poe and Highsmith in the New Yorker

January 14, 2010

January 19th is the birthday of both Edgar Allan Poe and Patricia Highsmith. In the New Yorker Ian Crouch makes the case that they are similar as writers too:

Like Poe’s work, Highsmith’s has been hamstrung among critics by its limited set of obsessions—murder, impersonation, mystery, and suspense. Much of Highsmith’s work either fits into, or was influenced by, popular genres. Offering remarkable insight, Joan Schenkar reveals how Highsmith’s early work as a comic-book writer—when she crafted stories for such characters as “Jap Buster Johnson”—was reflected in her novels. Though she gamely maintained that the likes of Henry James and Dostoyevsky also wrote “suspense” novels, Highsmith’s reputation was such that Norman Mailer once told Schenkar: “Remind me, Joan…what was Highsmith? A high-class detective novelist?” (Had he confused her with Agatha Christie?) Poe has suffered similarly. Schenkar points out that E. L. Doctorow once called Poe a “genius hack,” and “our greatest bad writer.”

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