Monday, 25 September 2017
RIP XII: Book The First: The Talented Mr Ripley by Patricia Highsmith
I WAS A FOOL.
The absolute number one strength of this book is the way it gets you to sympathise with a literal murderer. The titular Mr Ripley (Tom) is in a certain amount of trouble in the US when he stumbles across the father of an old acquaintance of his. Said acquaintance has been abroad in Italy for quite some time, and his father basically just wants him to come home. Tom volunteers himself to talk to Dickie (the son) and gets sent to Italy for free with $500 worth of travellers cheques and basically the promise of a gay old time. After he locates Dickie, it becomes clear that Tom isn't the most natural charmer (unlike Dickie) and it is this which starts of his endearing sympathetic nature to the reader that doesn't really abate even after he murders Dickie and steals his identity (ok, spoilers, but it's really the entire point of the book, so yeah).
It's honestly so masterful that I still can't work out how Highsmith has done it. Tom should essentially be repugnant to the reader, but he's so matter of fact about the things that he does and has enough reasoning that you almost feel yourself agreeing with him- of course that's what he did, how could he have done anything else? He's a conman in the book, but maybe more excitingly, he's a conman to the reader, convincing us that above all else, he's really a good guy. I genuinely felt stressed out any time he might get caught, which doesn't make any sense because HE IS LITERALLY A MURDERER.
And yet. A super sympathetic one.What can you do?
Although not one of the exciting parts of the book, one of the most interesting parts for me was the question of Tom's sexuality. He's clearly more interested in men than women in a general sense, and there are so many hints that he feels something more than friendship for Dickie that I just assumed he fully was gay for him. However, wikipedia (I know) tells me that Highsmith sees him as straight in that, in the sequels to this book (THERE ARE SEQUELS! 4 OF THEM!) he is married (to a woman) and she's quoted as saying something like 'oh he's not much good with women, but he can sex them, he's married is he not?' Regardless, I think we all know that the author is dead*, and so my opinion, and I'm fairly sure the opinions of most people reading this book, stands. BOOM, take that Patricia.
Anyway, the point is that this book is so exciting and thrillery that I could barely cope with it, but here I still am, alive to tell the tale that this book is amazing and so worth your time and attention. I am pretty into the idea of reading the sequels if I can find them anywhere, but something tells me they'll be sort of lacking compared to this masterpiece of thrillerness and fucked up men.