Not One Of Us, by Patricia Highsmith, is a short story I first remember finding while perusing through an anthology of suspenseful fiction when I was a preteen. My thoughts upon finishing it were “What an incredibly dark story!” and “I’m probably too young to be reading this…” Now, as more than ten years have passed, I have reread Not One Of Us and my thoughts are exactly the same.
Not One of Us concerns a stuffy and elitist circle of “friends” who meet regularly to gossip and deftly critique one another. I use the term friends in quotations because it’s revealed right away that the line between love and hate within this clique has become hopelessly blurred.
The brunt of the group’s collected malice is shifted onto Edmund Quasthoff, a man who has committed the most venal sin they can think of: he has become dull. I can’t help but think his unlikely name “Quasthoff” is a clever pun on ‘castoff,’ which is what poor Edward essentially is. The friends then decide its up to them to make Edmund interesting again, although it’s more for their benefit than his, which is made all too clear as their efforts become increasingly more insidious.
In Not One Of Us, Patricia Highsmith satirizes bourgeous pretensions in a surgically lacerating way that is rarely matched in American fiction. It’s a powerful story, and a brutal one.
Not One of Us can be found in The Selected Novels and Stories of Patricia Highsmith or in the collection titled The Black House.
Read my review of Little Tales of Misogyny.
What is your opinion of Not One Of Us by Patricia Highsmith?