Holden Caulfield, in The Catcher in the Rye, offers, “What really knocks me out is a book that, when you’re all done reading it, you wish the author that wrote it was a terrific friend of yours and you could call him up on the phone whenever you felt like it.” But he may not have felt like if the person on the other end of the phone was writer Patricia Highsmith. In Joan Schenkar’s exhaustive (which is how you’ll feel about halfway through) biography The Talented Miss Highsmith, we learn that the brilliant mind behind The Talented Mr. Ripley series, Strangers on a Train and many other novels was, among other things, a bigot and a snail-hoarder. Shenkar, who had access to 8,000 pages of Highsmith’s never-published notebooks and diaries, opens her book thus: “She wasn’t nice. She was rarely polite. And no one who knew her well would have called her a generous woman.” For this ALOUD author’s talk, Schenkar is joined by actress Kathleen Chalfant for a dramatic presentation that also includes never-before-seen photos.

Tue., March 1, 7 p.m., 2011

LA Weekly