This is a story I believe is worth telling. That being said, I want to be clear: The protagonist of this story is not a good person. In fact, Patricia Highsmith was an appalling person. – Grace Ellis, author’s note in the beginning of Flung Out of Space
Flung Out of Space: Inspired by the Indecent Adventures of Patricia Highsmith by Grace Ellis and illustrated by Hannah Templer was a book that had my feelings twisted multiple directions. Patricia Highsmith is problematic. She was a comic book writer and a lesbian during a time when those things were very much frowned upon and seen of as wrong and immoral. Pat’s own feelings towards herself are not positive – she goes through conversion therapy during the book. She is portrayed more as an antihero that readers aren’t sure how they should feel towards. Throughout this book, she is portrayed as bitter, caustic, and lashes out to anyone who gets too close. Pat is deeply flawed. This graphic novel is full of casual sexism, a male-dominated hierarchy, antisemitism, and prejudice against homosexuality. The swirling issues surrounding homosexuality are never really called attention to, but instead are present in Pat’s intense self-loathing of herself amongst other things. Hence my twisty feelings.
This graphic novel begins with Pat working as a writer of low-brow comics. She knows she can do better, but doesn’t do so. She drinks, smokes, and generally goes about life with an immensely surly attitude. As she goes about her day to day, Pat is consumed with thoughts of the novel she should be writing, which will eventually become Strangers on a Train, which will then be adapted into a film by Alfred Hitchcock in 1951.
While she works to write Strangers on a Train, Pat is consumed with self-hatred as she battles the fact that she is a lesbian. She tries conversion therapy, which instead provides her with more women to love and leave. One of those encounters plants the seed of another book in Pat’s head: a story of homosexual love that would give the lesbian protagonists a happy ending – a first! (this would eventually become the book, The Price of Salt).
As I talking about before, this title gave me conflicting emotions. Pat became an unintentional queer icon, but also held incredibly problematic views on multiple topics which made her legacy controversial. It’s a good read, but please read with care.