The Talented Miss Highsmith by Joan Schenkar
Photo: Marko Metzinger/Studio D

1. What did you know about Patricia Highsmith's life and work before you read The Talented Miss Highsmith ? Were you surprised by what you read?

2. The Talented Miss Highsmith is a nonlinear biography. If you were writing the life of a creative person, would you consider working in a nonchronological way? What might be the value of writing about an artist or a writer from the inside out, rather than from the outside in?

3. Patricia Highsmith wrote: "Families are nice to visit, but I wouldn't want to live with one." Have you had feelings like that? If so, what did you do with your feelings?

4. Highsmith, like many American artists and writers, found more support and fame in Europe than she did in America. Why do you think it is sometimes easier for creative people to find acceptance in places where they weren't born?

5. Many more biographies are published about men than about women. Is this prejudice on the part of publishers? Social conditioning on the part of authors? Something else?

6. Patricia Highsmith had a difficult character and some socially unacceptable traits. And yet, she was able to embody her traits and character creatively. Discuss the relationship between a writer's character and her work. Do writers have to be nice?

7. Highsmith's love/hate relationship with her mother was the inspiration for much of her work. Was there anything in The Talented Miss Highsmith 's portrayal of that relationship which was evocative for you?

8. Why do you think mother/daughter relations are so rarely depicted in literature?

9. The Talented Miss Highsmith uses long lists of Patricia Highsmith's actual possessions to show what she was like. Was this a productive way for you to understand her? Could you make a list of possessions that would represent you?

10. Did you find Patricia Highsmith a sympathetic character? If so, why? If not, what are your feelings about her?

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