The Blunderer

The Blunderer

Book - 2001
Average Rating:
Rate this:
13
2
For two years, Walter Stackhouse has been a faithful and supportive husband to his wife, Clara. She is distant and neurotic, and Walter finds himself harboring gruesome fantasies about her demise. When Clara's dead body turns up at the bottom of a cliff in a manner uncannily resembling the recent death of a woman named Helen Kimmel who was murdered by her husband, Walter finds himself under intense scrutiny. He commits several blunders that claim his career and his reputation, cost him his friends, and eventually threaten his life. The Blunderer examines the dark obsessions that lie beneath the surface of seemingly ordinary people. With unerring psychological insight, Patricia Highsmith portrays characters who cross the precarious line separating fantasy from reality.
Publisher: New York : W.W. Norton, 2001.
Copyright Date: ©1954
ISBN: 9780393322446
0393322440
Branch Call Number: FIC Highs
Characteristics: 265 pages ; 21 cm

Opinion

From the critics


Community Activity

Quotes

Add a Quote

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

Only a single sentence quoted in goodreads to date:

“Hello,” he said to the blonde girl, smiling. “Hello.” Her empty blue eyes brightened. “How’re you tonight?” It wasn’t a question she expected to be answered. He didn’t.
===
He was aware only of pure joy, of a glorious sense of justice, of injuries avenged, years of insult and injury, boredom, stupidity, most of all stupidity, paid back to her.
===
It had shamed him to ask for money, and he had done it only because he thought he deserved it. He had degraded himself once more in coming here this morning, and now to be refused by this stupid, ungrateful blunderer!
===
...and it seemed a quiet but meritorious achievement on his part, an achievement endorsed by the rest of the world, too, because no one had ever called him to account for it. The world simply rolled on, as if nothing had happened.

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

…he hoped that the Clara of those days would miraculously return. She was, after all, the same person, the same flesh. He still loved the flesh.
===
It was such a little thing, Walter thought. All their arguments were. Like yesterday’s—the discussion of whether a man and woman inevitably tired of each other physically after two years of marriage. Walter didn’t think it was inevitable. Clara was his proof, though she had argued so cynically and unattractively that it was inevitable.
===
They had laughed at something, and then her arms around his neck had slowly tightened…. Only Wednesday morning, three days ago—but the very next day there had been acid in her voice, that old pattern of punishment after favors granted.
===
His thesis was that a majority of people maintained at least one friendship with someone inferior to themselves because of certain needs and deficiencies that were either mirrored or complemented by the inferior friend.

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

If he could only make her relax somehow. Give her the right kind of security—he used to think. Well, didn’t he? Love, affection, and money, too. It just didn’t work.
===
Watching Clara’s face when she petted Jeff was the greatest pleasure Walter got out of the dog. He did hate the dog. He hated his cocky, selfish personality, his silly expression that seemed to say whenever he looked at Walter: “I’m living the life of Riley, and look at you!” He hated the dog because the dog could do no wrong with Clara, and he could do no right.
===
He had already lost five friends—for all practical purposes lost them because Clara wouldn’t have them in the house, though Walter still wrote to them, and, when he could, he saw them.
===
It was really then, about two years ago, that Walter had realized for the first time that he was married to a neurotic, a woman who was actually insane in some directions, and moreover a neurotic that he was in love with.

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

Clara had no patience with small children, and Walter doubted that she would be any different with her own. And even at twenty-six, when she married, Clara had facetiously protested that she was too old.
===
…law had been a clean instrument that he was learning to use, when he had felt himself, in his secret heart, a young knight about to set forth to succor the helpless and to uphold the righteous.
===
One of the few things he knew absolutely was that he loved Clara, and that pleasing her made him happy.
===
Walter had concluded that dissatisfaction was normal. He supposed life for most people was a falling slightly short of one ideal after another, salved if one was lucky by the presence of somebody one loved.
===
Bill Ireton looked suddenly sober as a trout.
===
Dick was shy about discussing it in the office, as shy as if the office were full of hidden dictaphones planted by Cross.

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

He wondered if she looked at everyone the way she looked at him.
===
You’re negative towards everything and everyone.” “And you’re so positive. Sweetness and light!”
===
“I can’t be a partner to a negative attitude that’s eventually going to alienate me from every living creature in the world!”
===
“It isn’t enough any more to be in love with you—physically—because mentally I despise you,” Walter said quietly. He felt that he was uttering the accumulation of the thousand days and nights when he had never dared say these things, not from lack of courage, but because it was so horrible and so fatal for Clara.
===
“You know I can’t stand to be around my mother.” Walter let it go. He was trying to avoid subjects that irritated her, and this was certainly one of them.
===
He glanced around at the people at the bar: a couple of men who looked like truck drivers, a dowdy woman reading a magazine with a repellent-looking crème de menthe in front of her…

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

He envied them. Their quarrels were so simple, so on the surface. Even when the man’s face twisted with anger, it was a mild and superficial anger. The man lifted his forearm and swung it back playfully as if he were going to hit her, and then put his arm down again.
===

Irma Gartner was a cripple, about sixty-five years old, and she played the violin. “She still plays well,” Ellie said. “If she weren’t a woman she’d certainly be able to get a job in some string orchestra playing in a restaurant or somewhere, but no one would hire a woman at her age. It’s too bad, isn’t it?”
===
“Shall I be very straightforward? You don’t love me, but you’re attracted to me because I’m different from your wife. You have troubles with your wife, so you come to me—don’t you?” She spoke so softly that he had to strain to hear her. “But I’m not so unwise as to have an affair with a married man—even if I am in love with him.”

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

“I love you.” Walter said. They listened to each other’s silence.
===
What kind of courage did it take to commit a murder? What degree of hatred? Did he have enough? Not simply hatred, he knew, but a particular tangle of forces of which hatred was only one. And a kind of madness. He thought he was entirely too rational.
===
Hal had said, she’s got a mind of her own. She’s a Jonah—for loving and leaving.
===
“I don’t suppose cases like this can ever be really proven suicides, can they?” “No. But we can eliminate the other possibilities.”
===
“Oh, it’s not that that I’m worried about!” “What is it then?” “The shame, I suppose. Being caught in a lie.”
===
Walter looked at Jeff, curled up asleep in the armchair. Whenever a car rolled up, Jeff was at the door, looking for her.
===
Booklovers: if you knew the kind of books a man wanted, you knew the man.

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

“Did you kill your wife?” ... “Do you possibly think I would tell you, you prying idiot?”
===
Helen had come in to ask him for bits of money and a quarrel had started and he had had to twist Helen’s wrists a couple of times, because that had been the only way to shut her up.
===
“Is the husband guilty?” Lieutenant Corby smiled again. “He’s not entirely clear, let’s put it that way. We don’t know yet. He acts guilty.”
===
She was not a pleasant character, my wife. Not to everyone.
===
Jon, who knew the most, was still the best friend he had. Jon was there when he needed him, and gone when Walter preferred to be alone.
===
He was thinking of Jeff, waiting all day for her, all night.
===
Dick’s soft body in the conservatively cut suit, the vest slightly bulging over hundreds of bacon-and-egg breakfasts, leisurely three-course lunches.

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

“A Boston tea party,” Bill said. It was local slang for a cocktail party that got started at four on a weekend afternoon.
===
He was imagining being married to Ellie, imagining her sunning her long smooth legs on the upstairs terrace, or some terrace, in summer, and imagining her head swathed in a woolen scarf when they took walks in the snow in winter. He was imagining introducing her to Chad. She and Chad should like each other.
===
He likes to make toadies of people around him, his inferiors. Worked his way up from the slums, fancies himself an intellectual—which he is, in fact.”
===
Cops and robbers. It must take a mind that’s nasty or twisted somewhere, he thought, to devote itself exclusively to homicide, especially with the gleeful zest that Corby showed.
===

“You’re my guilt!” Walter said.
===
It’s just as ruinous if you only intended to kill her without ever having laid a hand on her.

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

Now he was telling everybody about it, giving everybody the idea it was a vital piece of evidence in the proof he was collecting, still too secret and explosive to be put into print.
===
He wanted to blurt out that if you keep repeating the same story over and over, you finally begin to doubt it yourself, because the words stop making sense.
===
… you will not let yourself be fair with Stackhouse because you have decided to break a spectacular case!” Kimmel shouted, louder than Corby. “Even if you invent the crimes yourself!”
===
“Getting hit is the only thing you understand, isn’t it, Kimmel? Words and facts never bother you, because you’re insane. You refuse to attach a meaning to them.
===
She was loathsome to you, and gradually the loathing transferred itself to other women, too. You told yourself you hated women because they were stupid, and the stupidest of all was Helen.

View All Quotes

Comment

Add a Comment

j
jimg2000
Jun 28, 2018

The novel that the 2017 film “A Kind of Murder” was based on: an in-depth psychological thriller on the deaths of two women, and that an obnoxious detective zeroed in on their husbands, one a brute and the other a blunderer, as prime suspects. Unusual topic on the nature of uxoricide by detailing the men’s views on their failed marriages, love turned to hate, murderous excuses, lies and guilty conscious. One of the earliest novels by Highsmith when published in 1954, before Miranda rights of 1966 and when US divorce rate was at 24% in 1954 vs 42%-45% in recent years.

g
genepy
Mar 08, 2017

Another extremely suspensful psychological thriller from this brilliant author who dissects her characters’ mind and behaviors with acute precision but still gives the reader enough “libre-arbitre” to judge , predict or guess the outcome . I highly recommend it if you like detailed prose but fast reading at the same time.

Age Suitability

Add Age Suitability

There are no age suitabilities for this title yet.

Summary

Add a Summary

There are no summaries for this title yet.

Notices

Add Notices

There are no notices for this title yet.

Explore Further

Browse by Call Number

Recommendations

Subject Headings

  Loading...

Find it at VPL

  Loading...
[]
[]
To Top