JOAN SCHENKAR

Works

The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith
"Author and playwright Schenkar (Truly Wilde) presents a compelling portrait of suspense novelist Patricia Highsmith (1921–1995), whose own life was often as twisted as that of her antihero Tom Ripley. Dispensing with the traditional chronological narrative, Schenkar divides her study into themed sections, which crisscross and mirror each other, embodying the themes of doubling and alter egos in Highsmith's work and life. From her early years in Texas through her time soaking up Manhattan's literary life in the '40s to her self-exile in Europe, Highsmith kept diaries in which she meticulously detailed everything from her myriad female lovers to plot ideas. Pessimistic, alcoholic and chronically unhappy, Highsmith created some of the most chilling tales of psychological suspense and betrayal, including The Talented Mr. Ripley and its sequels, and Strangers on a Train. Schenkar's research is impeccable, and she makes excellent use of the voluminous Highsmith archives in Switzerland and interviews with Highsmith's friends, ex-lovers and literary contemporaries. “Perversion,” Highsmith once said, “interests me most and is my guiding darkness,” and Schenkar illuminates how her demons played out on the page and in real life."

-Publishers Weekly, "Pick of the Week" review

AWARDS: THE TALENTED MISS HIGHSMITH is a New York Times Notable Book of the Year, An Edgar Allan Poe Award nominee, and a Lambda Literary Award winner.

TRULY WILDE: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde, Oscar's Unusual Niece
"Joan Schenkar has lifted a veil to reveal a sophisticated, overheated lesbian world in Paris in the first decades of the twentieth century. At the center is Oscar Wilde's niece Dolly – self-destructive, self-dramatizing, magnetic. This is a great story, beautifully told."
–Edmund White


AWARDS: TRULY WILDE was a finalist for The Lambda Literary Award.

SIGNS OF LIFE: Six Comedies of Menace
"The real world of the play[s] is the familiar haunted by the unknown... as if an antic Samuel Beckett had allowed himself to be kidnapped by a gloomily playful Charles Addams...Schenkar's comic instincts are splendidly liberating: her passion is spoken subtext, catching characters in the dark middle of their debased imaginations."
The Village Voice


AWARDS: The plays have won more than forty grant and awards.

Selected Works

Biography
The Talented Miss Highsmith: The Secret Life and Serious Art of Patricia Highsmith
"This is a biography of clarity and style. A model of its kind." -Jeanette Winterson, The New York Times Book Review; cover review "VERDICT: An imaginative, definitive Highsmith biography, great for literature students, Highsmith fans, and mystery readers." -Library Journal
TRULY WILDE: The Unsettling Story of Dolly Wilde, Oscar's Unusual Niece
"A touching portrait of a louche, lush and lascivious lady..."
–Julie Burchill, featured columnist, The Guardian
Play Collection
SIGNS OF LIFE: Six Comedies of Menace
"Schenkar is an original: her narrative drive springs from menace."
Time Out (London)