Many famous writers have also been big-time pet lovers, from Ernest Hemingway and his six-toed cats to John Steinbeck and his standard poodle, Charley, who accompanied Steinbeck on the road trip depicted in Travels with Charley.
But American novelist and short story writer Patricia Highsmith took her pet passion to bizarre heights. Known for her tense thrillers such as The Talented Mr. Ripley, Highsmith didn't really care for people and wasn't shy about letting them know it.
Instead, Highsmith preferred the company of animals -- particularly, snails. Not only did she breed them in terrariums in her backyard, but Highsmith also carried them with her sometimes, even in her luggage. In one famous incident, Highsmith attended a cocktail party and brought hundreds of the little creatures along, kept on a head of lettuce in her purse. According to a 2009 biography, if Highsmith got bored at a dinner, she would place some snails on the table to crawl around. Such behavior probably helps to explain why Highsmith spent much of her life surrounded by cats and other creatures in an isolated farmhouse in Switzerland.
The highs and lows of Patricia Highsmith:
- Highsmith's grandmother taught the future novelist how to read at the age of 2.
- Highsmith disliked the notion of justice and didn't care about her characters being punished for evil deeds.
- Bothered by noise, Highsmith preferred being alone and maintaining friendships through the mail.