The Quest For ‘Blank Claveringi’ by Patricia Highsmith, 1967
The magic trick:
Relishing the chance to humble its protagonist
Patricia Highsmith takes us near Hawaii for this tale of adventure and suspense. Professor Clavering wants badly to cement his scientific legacy by putting his name to a new species, so he goes to a remote island in search of giant snails. You’re likely familiar with the cocksure adventurer character undone by his own ego. But I’m not sure you’ve ever read about one whose author/god takes so unabashed pleasure in setting up the pedestal to crash it on down. I mean, this is world-class misanthropy here.
And that’s quite a trick on Highsmith’s part.
He sank up to his neck, but he could walk on the bottom. He held the camera high. He emerged panting, as he was some twenty pounds overweight. Professor Clavering was to regret every one of those pounds before the day was over, but as he got his breath and looked around him, and felt himself drying off in the warm sunlight, he was happy.
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