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11+ Works 1,962 Members 25 Reviews

About the Author

Robert Polito is the author of Savage Art: A Biography of Jim Thompson, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award and an Edgar Award. (Bowker Author Biography)

Includes the names: Robert Polito, ed. Robert Polito

Image credit: Robert Polito (1951- )
Photo by David Shankbone, Aug. 19, 2006,
Bowery Poetry Club, New York City

Works by Robert Polito

Associated Works

The Best American Essays 2006 (2006) — Contributor — 298 copies
Five Noir Novels of the 1940s and '50s (2012) — Editor — 237 copies
Mr. Arkadin, a novel (1955) — Preface — 116 copies
Clark Gifford's Body (1942) — Introduction, some editions — 105 copies
Selected Poems (2004) — Editor — 81 copies
Manny Farber: About Face (2003) — Contributor — 14 copies
Black Clock 10 (2009) — Contributor — 2 copies


1930s (10) 20th century (47) American (42) American literature (82) anthology (78) Best American Series (11) biography (42) classics (11) collection (19) crime (105) crime fiction (66) crime novel (13) criticism (12) detective (34) detective fiction (14) essays (95) Everyman's Library (16) fiction (261) film (32) hardboiled (29) hardcover (14) Jim Thompson (12) Library of America (180) literature (53) LOA (57) mysteries (13) mystery (115) noir (126) non-fiction (47) novel (66) NYRB Classics (12) omnibus (22) own (14) poetry (43) pulp (12) slipcase (13) thriller (11) to-read (86) unread (21) USA (12)

Common Knowledge




Highsmith achieves a singular tone: Ripley is entitled, contradictory, isolated, and seemingly traumatised from prior social relationships. His sociopathy manifests in a predominant concern for appearances, but not only to fool others -- he displays a consistent preoccupation with personal appearance as a measure of self-worth, in terms of projecting what he wants to be in the world, and how he wants others to value him. In fact, by the end it appears he is an empty shell of a person: no identity, nothing to define him as a person, ever at the whim of events and emotions.

Interestingly, Ripley is neither a sympathetic criminal mastermind nor a figure of fear a la Hannibal Lecter. His plans often do not work, and he is suspected almost from the start with multiple suspicions raised: boat at San Reno, forged signatures, Marge, friends of Dickie. He is both pathetic and pitiful, if not pitiable. Undecided about following along for more adventures at this point, perhaps if the "identity" or "authenticity" theme nags at me.

It's my idea the reader is meant to consider the possibility Ripley is gay, and reflect upon what implications flow from the supposition. I don't think Highsmith has a definitive answer, let alone one the reader is meant to figure out, rather the reader is supposed to consider it. Many suggestions woven into the story: Ripley wanting to get Dickie alone, to have him "like" him, observations on whether Ripley finds various men attractive, only commenting on women if they are linked to one of the men he's dealing with. But much less on direct consequences, either of plot or of character. So the question is left dangling: what would it mean if he were?

A re-read, first read in high school and possibly a bit earlier.


to be read:
PICK-UP | C Wileford
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elenchus | 5 other reviews | Dec 11, 2022 |
“Them politicians are thieves just like us,” T-Dub said. “Only they got more sense and use their damned tongues instead of a gun.”

6 noir stories from the 40's and 50's. The first, "The Postman Always Rings Twice" is a classic, and one that I had already read.
The second, Horace McCoy’s "They Shoot Horses, Don’t They?" is a really good read, and one that I had always thought was a western, due to the title. I love the way the story is written between the words of a judge who is sentencing the main character to death! Totally original! And I didn't know much of anything about dance marathons, so I learned a lot too! Super creepy last sentence.
“Thieves LikeUs” follows three fellas that’ve escaped from prison and start robbing banks. It was a very slow read for me.
“The Big Clock” was a ‘big’ thumbs down.
“Nightmare Alley” is a story about a carnival sideshow. I really liked Molly’s backstory!
“I Married A Dead Man” was another thumbs down.

So, overall, an uneven collection of stories. It almost goes from best to worst, with the decline beginning in the middle of the third story. I'd really only recommend reading the first two.
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Stahl-Ricco | 10 other reviews | Aug 22, 2022 |
What can you say about a book this good? For $25 you get 6, count 'em 6 of the very best classic American noir novels of all time: The Postman Always Rings Twice; They Shoot Horses, Don't They?; Thieves Like Us; The Big Clock; Nightmare Alley; and I Married a Dead Man. All this with a real cloth-bound hardcover, sewn in numbers, headbands, a beautiful book. Author notes, footnotes, chronology.

If you think noir is all about private dicks and dames, well think again, there isn't a detective protagonist in the bunch. These novels are more about life in the gritty years of the Great Depression and the effects it had on the physical and psychological conditions of people. Sure there are con men, bank robbers, blackmailers, murderers, prostitutes, but this isn't about psychopaths like a Jim Thompson novel, its about people trying to make it and stay alive when hope is gone. A lot of these writers were just trying to make it themselves, so they know what they are writing about. Some of the prose and writing is quite experimental, not always what you think of in dime crime novels. A lot of times the writing is on edge with the best stuff being written even today. This is classic American literature disguised as pulp crime fiction.

I Married a Dead Man is by Cornell Woolrich one of the greatest character writers of all time.
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Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
Including Nightmare Alley makes this a classic collection of American noir.
petescisco | 10 other reviews | Mar 29, 2021 |



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Jim Thompson Contributor
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