Arts section writer
Molly Ellen Pearson is a poet and content producer. She has an MA in Poetry from UEA and her pamphlet HYDRA will be published by Marble Poetry in late 2020. She writes on ecofeminism, climate anxiety and gender embodiment in horror and other genre fiction. You can find her on Instagram as @wearenotnew.
Few novels with openly queer protagonists are as enduringly loved, or have achieved such acclaim, as Patricia Highsmith’s The Talented Mr Ripley.
Tom Ripley is a charming, Machiavellian antihero whose talents include ‘forging signatures… and impersonating practically anybody’, and whose unreciprocated worship of Dickie Greenleaf, the prodigal son of a New York shipping tycoon, leads him to kill Dickie and assume his identity. He is also asexual, yet not a single adaptation of Highsmith’s work has addressed this. With a new adaptation in the works, in the form of a Showtime drama directed by Steven Zaillan and starring Andrew Scott, it’s important to acknowledge and reflect on the ways in which this aspect of Ripley’s character has been erased.
‘I was still standing. I’m shot, I thought, I’m shot. I reached down and touched my stomach. Blood. There was a small hole, slightly charred, in my white shirt: my Paul Smith shirt, I thought, with a pang of anguish. I’d paid a week’s salary for it in San Francisco.’
A novel preoccupied with appearances and the dark realities they can conceal, it is no wonder that clothes are a recurring theme in Donna Tartt’s The Secret History. As protagonist Richard notices the gunshot in his expensive shirt at the climax, his ‘anguish’ stems less from the injury to his physical body than to the painstakingly assembled body of signifiers he has spent the novel maintaining; a ‘small hole’ through which his history, in its imperfect secrecy, is exposed.