December 2, 2014

"This Sweet Sickness" - This Sweet Pervertedness!

This Sweet Sickness
This Sweet Sickness (Photo credit: Wikipedia)
This Sweet Sickness is one of Patricia Highsmith's early books. The story is about a young intelligent scientist David Kelsey's obsession of a young woman, Annabelle. As Annabelle pushes him further and further, Kelsey's obsession gets more intense, until he finally traps in an inescapable corner of web woven by himself.

The first one third of book is very slow, I almost gave up, but I am glad I didn't, because the last one third is absolutely brilliant - as situation gets more pressing, Kelsey's hallucination gets more real, he becomes more confused about his true identity. This part of book reminds me The Talented Mr. Ripley, but only more emotionally thrilling (though overall I still like Rilpley more).

Highsmith is a master of exhibiting pervertedness with almost brutal honesty. This can be one of the major reasons that her work is not popular in US. Generally speaking, most American people's (of course not only Americans') obsession is not with pervertedness, but with "happiness" - the kind of happiness without fundamental understanding of human misery. This is understandable, as it is happiness, not misery, makes life worth living. However, as a social ideology, being overly obsessed with happiness would encourage majority to refuse to look into the complication of human nature, demonize minority who are different from them but essentially just as human as they are. The characters in Highsmith's books are precisely the type of persons whom most "normal" people would avoid in reality (again, understandably), even label them as "evils".

Contrary to the popular belief, the reason that I found Highsmith one of the most important authors in western literature is precisely because of her scrutinizing on "abnormality", even pervertedness of humans psyche. I sincerely believe, that without such study, we can never claim that we truly understand ourselves.


  1. You have insightful comments here.
    Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is healthy and necessary. Society mocks vulnerability.
    This review reminds me of another novel that you will love. It is called The Tunnel by Ernesto Sabato, an Argentine writer. This novel was praised by Albert Camus and it is about an artist who falls in love with a woman because she was the only person who understood the importance of a window that he had painted in his artwork. He became obsessed with her.

  2. The Tunnel is a true psychological novel. It is fascinating.

    1. Thanks Julia.
      "Allowing ourselves to be vulnerable is healthy and necessary. "
      --- So true!
      I just checked Tunnel in Amazon, it seems fascinating. Definitely will read it in near future.

  3. Wonderful and comprehensive review, Yun! I have never read Patricia Highsmith to date but now after reading this, I'd like to check out this book. Scrutinizing the human psyche, even the “abnormalities” and “pervertedness” would be crucial to understanding ourselves overall.

    Btw, I saw the movie “The Talented Mr. Ripley” although I never read the book; very well done and well acted, lots of suspense and intrigue.

    1. Madilyn, the movie of "Talented Ripely" is very good! though very different from the book too. Hope one day you would read it. It is gripping, very different from other mystery or classic books. Another book of hers I love ( I think you would enjoy) is "Edith's Diary", which I also wrote a review.