Patricia Highsmith – The Price of Salt

Price of Salt

The Price of Salt tells the riveting story of Therese Belivet, a stage designer trapped in a department-store day job, whose salvation arrives one day in the form of Carol Aird, an alluring suburban housewife in the throes of a divorce.  They fall in love and set out across the United States, pursued by a private investigator who eventually blackmails Carol into a choice between her daughter and her lover. 

The first question in my mind was why the heck would the author name her novel The Price of Salt.  As I read into the book, it started making sense. What is salt?  Salt is an essential nutrient that preserves and sustains life. Salt sits on your dinner table and you shake it on your food if it’s bland and you want to enhance the taste.  I interpreted salt as a metaphor for love and it’s application into the story, as well as it’s trans-formative power in Therese’ drab and lifeless existence before she met Carol, is masterful.

With this novel, you’re either going to hate it or love it.  There are certain aspects of this story that can feel very unsettling, and some might even consider Carol or Therese as a sort of antihero.  I was undecided about Carol’s character for most of the novel.  It wasn’t until the last few chapters that I could better understand and appreciate the depth of her love and her pain.  The tone of The Price of Salt is somber, and a love story within that tenor is like the beauty of a rainy day.  This novel’s intensity will leave no doubt to the reader that it is rooted in a deeply personal experience of the writer.  The writing breathes life through the author’s first-hand knowledge of a love that was once considered an abomination within her society.

In 1989, in reference to this novel, Patricia Highsmith is quoted, “Prior to this book, homosexual male and female in American novels had had to pay for their deviation by cutting their wrists, drowning themselves in a swimming pool, or by switching to heterosexuality (so it was stated), or by collapsing-alone and miserable and shunned-into a depression equal to hell.”  I would consider Highsmith as one of the pioneers in queer literature, and her contributions helped pave a happier road for fictional lesbian characters.

The Price of Salt is a priceless gift from the past, and the type of story that stays with you long after you’ve turned the last page.

1.  Astrud Gilberto & Stan Getz – The Girl from Ipanema
2.  Patsy Cline – Crazy
3.  Billie Holiday – Easy Living
4.  Otis Redding – Try a Little Tenderness
5.  Frankie Laine – Jezebel
6.  Johnny Mathis – Chances Are
7.  Nine Simone – To Love Somebody
8.  Ella Fitzgerald – Embraceable You
9.  Platters – Only You (And You Alone)
10.  Joe Pass – All The Things You Are
11.  Billie Holiday – All of Me
12.  Doris Day – Secret Love

This book would be best read with an….

-2 oz of rye whiskey or bourbon whiskey.  Rye, if you want spicier.  Bourbon, if you want sweeter.
-3 dashes of bitters.
-1 splash of water
-1-2 tsp of simple syrup
-Orange peel
-Large ice cube

Mix the simple syrup, water and bitters in a rock glass.  Drop the large ice cube in the glass.  Pour the whiskey over it.  Mix well.  Twist the orange peel over the drink, then rim the glass before dropping it in the drink. Welcome to the 50s!


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