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People Who Knock on the Door by Patricia…
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People Who Knock on the Door (original 1983; edition 2001)

by Patricia Highsmith (Author)

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260481,989 (3.55)9
With the savage humor of Evelyn Waugh and the macabre sensibility of Edgar Allan Poe, Patricia Highsmith brought a distinct twentieth-century acuteness to her prolific body of fiction. In her more than twenty novels, psychopaths lie in wait amid the milieu of the mundane, in the neighbor clipping the hedges or the spouse asleep next to you at night. Now, Norton continues the revival of this noir genius with another of her lost masterpieces: a later work from 1983, People Who Knock on the Door, is a tale about blind faith and the slippery notion of justice that lies beneath the peculiarly American veneer of righteousness. This novel, out of print for years, again attests to Highsmith's reputation as "the poet of apprehension" (Graham Greene).… (more)
Member:BasilValentine
Title:People Who Knock on the Door
Authors:Patricia Highsmith (Author)
Info:W. W. Norton & Company (2001), Edition: Reprint, 352 pages
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People Who Knock on the Door by Patricia Highsmith (1983)

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Als seine Gebete erhört werden und sein jüngerer Sohn eine schwere Krankheit übersteht, wird Versicherungsagent Alderman plötzlich 'erleuchtet' und tritt einer christlichen Sekte bei. Er beginnt, die Familie mit Moralpredigten, Kirchenbesuchen und Gebeten zu quälen. Als die Freundin seines siebzehnjährigen Sohnes Arthur schwanger wird, kommt es zur Konfrontation.
  Fredo68 | May 14, 2020 |
Hollywood has rediscovered her since she died, but during most of her lifetime Patricia Highsmith belonged to that select group of American writers who sold more books in France than they did in the USA. The reasons for her repeated rejection by American readers aren't always as obvious as they were with this book, written in response to the rise of Reagan and the religious right in the early eighties, which for quite some time couldn't even find a publisher in America, although it got good reviews in Britain and elsewhere.

The central character of the book is Arthur, a student living with his family in a small town in Indiana, doing well at high school, and looking forward to going off to college on the East Coast. His plans are messed up when his father discovers a new enthusiasm for fundamentalist Christianity.

Highsmith plays her usual trick of bringing a chaotic disturbance into a well-ordered middle-class way of life to destabilise our preconceived ideas about order and morality, and this works very well, leading us gently but firmly into a position where our response to the final crisis will not be the one we expected to have. But the book is undermined by the relative clumsiness of her satirical attack on the evangelicals. Neither she nor any of the sympathetic characters in the book has the least bit of empathy with them and their beliefs - there's no attempt to see inside their heads and we have to take it on trust that they are all either hypocrites or gullible fools. So Highsmith's attacks on them come over more as snobbish prejudice than as the incisive criticism she obviously intended.

Another thing that struck me about the book is that there's a kind of reverse American Graffiti thing going on - it's meant to be set around 1981, and we get occasional mentions of current events to remind us of that, but most of the time Chalmerston, Indiana seems to be locked in something like the Hollywood version of 40s/50s small-town America. Which is presumably largely an accident of Highsmith's biography - when she wrote this book she'd been living in Europe for more than 20 years (and probably hadn't associated with American teenagers for even longer than that); her visit to Indiana to gather local colour was a mere week's stay with some friends in Bloomington. So she must have filled in a lot of the detail from her own experience of earlier times.

Interesting for anyone who wants to chase up Highsmith's career, but really rather a forgettable period piece. ( )
1 vote thorold | Nov 21, 2017 |
Patricia Highsmith’s book, one of her last, tells the story of a family pulled into religious fundamentalism through a medical crisis- the youngest son is saved from death through the power of prayer, though it may have been medical intervention, too. The father and youngest son are completely given over to religious rule, the eldest son rejects it and the mother seems ambivalent.

People seems to me to be written in response to the early Reagan years and the short-lived rise of the religious right in American politics. However, Highsmith’s theme of profound and unyielding religious devotion clashing with its surrounding environments and producing sociopathic behavior is relevant today and has been since 9/11.

Patricia Highsmith ranks up there with Janis Joplin and Goethe as people I’d like to have a beer with.
2 vote SomeGuyInVirginia | Sep 27, 2009 |
Summary: When his younger brother Robbie survives a bout with tonsilitis, Arthur Alderman's father Richard becomes a born-again Christian. Robbie is heavily influenced by his father, while Arthur rejects their new-found faith, and their mother just tries to keep the peace. Tensions build in their household, affecting Arthur's love life and education, until the entire situation can't help but explode.

Review: The shelving guide on the back cover of my copy says "Fiction/Mystery/Suspense", this has to be based on Highsmith's other work and not on this book, because only one of those three terms is at all applicable. There's no mystery to speak of, and the only suspense is wondering when the plot is going to start. The book is essentially a year in Arthur's life, and while stuff happens, the plot doesn't really have any motor behind it, and nothing particularly interesting happens until at least 3/4 of the way through the book. Furthermore, all of the characters seem pretty flat, even Arthur, without a whole lot of depth or inner complexity. No one really undergoes any growth or transformation over the course of the book - everyone's attitudes are more or less the same at the end as they were at the beginning, making the reader wonder what was the point of the intervening 300 pages. Finally, this book is pretty down on born-again fundamentalist Christians, which in itself is not necessarily a problem for me. However, what did bug me was the fact that it was so easily dismissive of the entire topic without giving even a hint of the other side of things. It's fine to point out the ridiculous hyperbole and hypocrisy of some born-agains, but when what you're knocking down is little more than a cariacatured cardboard cutout, then it makes the "victory" ring a little hollow.

Recommendation: It read pretty quickly, but that's probably because there wasn't a lot of substance there. Not exactly unenjoyable, but on the whole I wouldn't bother. ( )
4 vote fyrefly98 | Dec 9, 2007 |
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Patricia Highsmithprimary authorall editionscalculated
Uhde, AnneTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed

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Gewidmet dem Mut des palästinensischen Volkes und seiner Führer im Kampf um die Rückgewinnung eines Teils ihrer Heimat. Dieses Buch hat mit ihren Problemen nichts zu tun.
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With the savage humor of Evelyn Waugh and the macabre sensibility of Edgar Allan Poe, Patricia Highsmith brought a distinct twentieth-century acuteness to her prolific body of fiction. In her more than twenty novels, psychopaths lie in wait amid the milieu of the mundane, in the neighbor clipping the hedges or the spouse asleep next to you at night. Now, Norton continues the revival of this noir genius with another of her lost masterpieces: a later work from 1983, People Who Knock on the Door, is a tale about blind faith and the slippery notion of justice that lies beneath the peculiarly American veneer of righteousness. This novel, out of print for years, again attests to Highsmith's reputation as "the poet of apprehension" (Graham Greene).

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