‘The Breeder’ by Patricia Highsmith

The Breeder by Patricia Highsmith, 1975

The magic trick:

Going full-on absurd to make its point

Many of the stories in Little Tales Of Misogyny stretch the reader’s willing suspension of disbelief. The collection’s entire framework pushes cynicism right up to – and occasionally over – the line of absurdity. But “The Breeder” doesn’t toe the line of absurdity. It doubles, triples, quadruples down on the absurd in order to make its point. And that’s quite a trick on Highsmith’s part.

The selection:

Now the household was in an uproar with at least fifteen kids screaming, plus Elaine. Toys were Douglas’s targets. Balls of all sizes went through windowpanes, followed by plastic horns and little pianos, cars and telephones, then teddy bears, rattles, guns, rubber swords and peashooters, teething rings and jigsaw puzzles. He squeezed two formula bottles and laughed with lunatic glee as the milk spurted from the rubber teats. Elaine’s expression changed from surprise to horror. She leaned out of a broken window and screamed.

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