Last night American playwright Joan Schenkar gave an entrancing presentation about Patricia Highsmith’s life and works at the Literaturhaus in Zurich. Joan actually had me on the edge of my seat all the time. She made quite a few first time revelations about Patricia Highsmith, and if I were more of a journalist, I would spill the beans, but I am not. I would rather recommend that you read Joan’s biograpy of Highsmith that is due to appear in the bookstores – in English and German -sometime next year according to what her Diogenes editor told me last night. I know that this is one book that I am waiting for.
In my perhaps not so humble view, I think that Joan did some fantastic research on the work of a writer that had both a most fascinating, if not dark, psychology but who also engaged in an edging literary form that is very much up to date and right with the zeitgeist of the XXI century: comics. Geeks of this day, beware!
Joan Schenkar has approached Patricia Highsmith’s life as a biographer from the point of view of character, an approach that in Joan’s words comes naturally to a playwright. Recently I have been reading both biographies and journals that include those of Anais Nin, Paul Klee, Orhan Pamuk, and H P Lovecraft. Character synthesis is something that has me quite occupied these days as that is exactly what I have been toiling with in giving gestalt to the novel that I am working on. Writing autobiographical stuff is the easy part of writing, the character is already formed and it already has a biography, but to create a synthetic and plausible character that can make a story come to life is all together another challenge. The writer’s biographer has however the formidable task of joining the two pieces, namely, the character of the writer and creator of many literary characters and the stories, and thus does get behind the scenes of what fuels creativity and literature.