8 Facts About Patricia Highsmith’s ‘The Price of Salt’


When The Price of Salt was very first printed, it gave LGBTQ+ readers anything they had never ever encountered just before: a novel that didn’t punish its most important figures for currently being gay and allowed them at least the likelihood of a Happily Ever Immediately after.

The guide was produced in 1952—the identical year the American Psychiatric Affiliation categorised homosexuality as a psychological health issues in its 1st Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Psychological Disorders. There experienced been gay and lesbian novels prior to, but there have been normally only 3 choices accessible to the most important character by the conclusion of the e-book: loss of life, madness, or a existence of repression and denial. As The Price of Salt author Patricia Highsmith recounted in an afterword to Bloomsbury’s 1990 reissue, gay and lesbian characters usually “had to pay back for their deviation by cutting their wrists, drowning themselves in a swimming pool, or by switching to heterosexuality (so it was mentioned), or by collapsing—alone and miserable and shunned—into a melancholy equivalent to hell.”

No this sort of destiny awaits Therese Belivet and Carol Aird, the Manhattan shop girl and glamorous socialite whose swoony, steamy romance plays out in The Selling price of Salt (and later on in Todd Haynes’s exquisite film adaptation, Carol). In accordance to The New Republic, 1000’s of audience wrote to Highsmith—or, additional accurately, to her pseudonym, “Claire Morgan”—to thank her for presenting them a love story with a hopeful ending. They might have been shocked to learn they have been in fact writing to the gifted youthful psychological suspense author whose debut novel, Strangers on a Teach, experienced been adapted by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951.

Seventy several years just after its publication, in this article are 8 issues you must know about Highsmith’s groundbreaking romance novel.

In accordance to Joan Schenkar’s 2011 biography The Gifted Pass up Highsmith, The Price of Salt was largely motivated by Highsmith’s stint in the Bloomingdale’s toy office in the course of the 1948 Christmas browsing time. (She wanted the money to pay out for psychoanalysis, partly in hopes she could “regularize herself sexually.”) It was there that Highsmith briefly encountered Kathleen Wiggins Senn, a married New Jersey lady whom the novelist would afterwards explain as “blondish and stylish.” The particulars of the conference will be familiar to anybody who has browse the book or seen Haynes’s 2015 movie adaptation: Senn, wrapped in a fur coat and fiddling with her gloves, approached the counter to purchase a doll for her daughter, and Highsmith was smitten. She went home that night and, in about two hours, sketched out the plot of The Price tag of Salt.

Aside from Senn, Highsmith also drew on her doomed enjoy affair with Philadelphia socialite Ginnie Catherwood to flesh out the character of Carol Aird and her steamy romance with Therese Belivet, the young woman she fulfills in a New York section shop. “Oh God,” Highsmith would create in her diary, “how this story emerges from my possess bones!”

Just before she settled on The Price of Salt, Highsmith attempted out a number of titles ranging from the clear to the esoteric. The Bloomingdale Tale is self-explanatory, whilst The Argument of Tantalus ought to have referred to a mythic Greek king who was condemned to invest eternity standing in a pool of drinking water he couldn’t drink, beneath a tree bearing fruit that was for good out of his attain. Blasphemy of Laughter would have been a shout-out to Virginia Woolf’s 1931 experimental novel The Waves, but Highsmith biographies are silent on what Paths of Lightening could possibly have meant.

When Highsmith commenced creating The Selling price of Salt in earnest in 1949, her publisher and agent were being encouraging her to produce one more book in the vein of Strangers on a Train to “strengthen [her] reputation” as an writer of suspense. Highsmith claimed she hadn’t set out to produce a suspense novel, and she appeared wary of being pigeonholed. In accordance to an afterword Highsmith wrote, she had identical issues that she would be “labelled a lesbian-e book author,” so she determined to “offer [The Price of Salt] below a different title.” She selected “Claire Morgan” as her pseudonym.

In accordance to Andrew Wilson’s 2003 biography Attractive Shadow: A Everyday living of Patricia Highsmith, there was 1 other issue that weighed heavily on the author’s brain and persuaded her to publish under a pen title: She did not want to upset her 84-12 months-aged grandmother. It would be just about 40 several years prior to she ultimately claimed credit score for her groundbreaking novel—in 1990, The Selling price of Salt was re-launched with a new title, Carol, underneath Highsmith’s personal title.

According to Highsmith’s diaries, the author was so infatuated with Kathleen Senn, the girl who acquired a doll from her Bloomingdale’s counter in 1948, that on two instances, Highsmith designed the journey to Senn’s hometown of Ridgewood, New Jersey, to locate Senn’s dwelling. (She had memorized the woman’s address from the Bloomingdale’s receipt a yr and a half earlier.)

Highsmith designed her 1st expedition to Ridgewood on June 30, 1950—the day following she completed her 1st draft of The Value of Salt. “[L]ike a murderer in a novel, I boarded the prepare for Ridgewood, New Jersey,” she wrote of the journey, which produced her so anxious that she experienced to drink two whiskeys just to work up her bravery. It wasn’t the to start with time Highsmith had secretly pursued a female who intrigued her in an write-up she titled “My Daily life with Greta Garbo,” Highsmith wrote about following the reclusive actress on the streets of New York.

But as stalkers go, Highsmith didn’t convert out to be a very very good one. At one point all through her initially trip to Senn’s property, she boarded the incorrect bus and ended up with an entire busload of passengers shouting directions at her as she tried to make her way to Senn’s street. Highsmith didn’t discover Senn in the course of that tour, and when she returned six months afterwards, Senn’s household was empty.

Even though Highsmith hinted at a joyful ending for Carol Aird, the true-lifestyle Senn wasn’t as privileged. She died by suicide in Oct 1951, about seven months just before The Price tag of Salt was revealed. Highsmith never ever found out.

The Value of Salt became a landmark of queer literature in aspect for its pleased ending, but Highsmith’s first intuition was significantly less sunny. She at first supposed for Carol and Therese to split up at the end, but she presented her agent, Margot Johnson, with two versions: one in which her fans part methods, and a person that saw them reunited. Johnson persuaded Highsmith to go with the far more upbeat ending.

According to Schenkar, Highsmith was touring in Europe all through the summertime of 1951 when her agent contacted her with regrettable information: Harper, which experienced released Highsmith’s debut novel Strangers on a Prepare, experienced turned down The Cost of Salt. According to Highsmith’s diary, Harper had claimed there was “not more than enough enthusiasm from the editorial board” and that the creator hadn’t taken “the ‘mature approach’” to the subject matter subject.

Fewer than 3 months right after Harper turned it down, The Price of Salt was recognized for publication by Coward-McCann, with the assure of a $500 progress. Coward-McCann would also publish Highsmith’s 1955 psychological suspense masterpiece The Gifted Mr. Ripley and the Highsmith-illustrated 1958 children’s ebook Miranda the Panda Is on the Veranda.

The Price of Salt very first appeared in hardcover in 1952, but, according to The New Republic, it wasn’t right up until a paperback version was released the adhering to year that the guide discovered an enthusiastic readership. The Bantam Guides version, with a go over selling price of 35 cents, billed The Value of Salt as “the novel of a appreciate culture forbids” and highlighted an illustration of a predatory-on the lookout lady obtaining handsy with her youthful girlfriend while a threatening male determine looms in the background. The paperback came with a blurb from The New York Occasions promising that the reserve “[handles] explosive material … with sincerity and excellent flavor,” but readers who ended up drawn to its salacious protect in all probability hoped not.

The timing of the paperback release couldn’t have been much better. In 1950, Tereska Torrès’s Women’s Barracks had served kick off a spate of lesbian dime-retail store novels whose lurid addresses generally didn’t match their somewhat tame content material. Two several years later, Marijane Meaker’s Spring Fireplace reportedly sold 1.5 million copies. Profits figures for The Rate of Salt have been notoriously tricky to nail down, with estimates ranging from hundreds of countless numbers of copies to upward of a million. But even with the additional conservative quantities, Highsmith’s novel was a hit. 

Most sources concur that the title has its roots in the Bible, which Highsmith frequently used mornings studying. In accordance to Schenkar, Highsmith discovered the title as a biblical reference but didn’t specify which passage impressed it. Phyllis Nagy, who tailored the e-book for the 2015 film Carol, reportedly reported that the title is a nod to the story of Lot’s wife, who was turned into a pillar of salt right after defying an angel’s orders to flee the destruction of Sodom without on the lookout back. Schenkar, though, speculated that the title could possibly have come from a 1925 French novel called The Counterfeiters by André Gide. She cites this passage as the very likely inspiration for Highsmith’s cryptic title: “If the salt have shed its flavor wherewith shall it be salted?” It’s in all probability a reference to Matthew 5:13, which fears Christ’s Sermon on the Mount.

A close looking through of the e-book would seem to back again up Schenkar’s concept. When Therese is divided from Carol, she wonders “how would the world arrive again to life? How would its salt occur again?”


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