Monday, 25 December 2017

Sour Tales for Sweethearts

I'm currently in a sprint to the finish to make my Goodreads goal for the year. I don't think I finished it last year. This year I really want to complete it. Sour Tales for Sweethearts is my 96th read for the year, so I have four to go to hit my target of 100. Desperate times call for desperate measures. So when my friend brought this pamphlet sized morsel along to bookgroup I knew I needed to read it. 

And I knew I was in for something different when I read the first line of The Hand. 

A young man asked a father for his daughter's hand, and received it in a box. 
Okay then. 

I've never read any Patricia Highsmith before. Of course I'm aware of some of her stories, but only through movie adaptations. I saw The Talented Mr Ripley whenever it came out, and never since, and I saw Carol at the movies recently- but that's it. I'd heard that she was a clever, good writer so I wasn't really prepared for my disappointment with this book. 

Sour Tales for Sweethearts is four short stories (most are really, really short), extracted from Little Tales of Misogyny, a collection published in 1977. 

The Hand

The Invalid, or, The Bed-Ridden
The Fully-Licensed Whore, or, The Wife
The Female Novelist

All are tales full of bizarre, nasty people doing bizarre, nasty things. And I didn't like any of them. I certainly didn't find any of the stories funny as the cover blurb suggested. Yes I can see what she is doing taking a literal view of asking for a daughter's hand in marriage, women who want to get married for spurious reasons and then do in their spouse. 

Now she could become a professional, with protection of the law, approval of society, blessing of the clergy, and financial support of her husband. 

But I can't understand how she ever sat down to write these stories. What was her inspiration? Well maybe The Hand. What if I take an expression literally? I didn't like the narrative style of The Hand, it seemed to have words missing, I got confused and I had to reread some of it to work out what she meant. 

Sadly I think it will be quite a while before I have another go at Patricia Highsmith, this was not a good taste test for me.

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