Friday, December 11, 2009

Local Color: "The Haunts of Miss Highsmith"

This morning's New York Times ran a piece about the author Patricia Highsmith and the neighborhood in which she lived. The occasion of this piece was the release of Joan Schenkar's biography, "The Talented Miss Highsmith." Ms. Schenkar and the author of the article, Patricia Cohen, retraced the paths that Miss Highsmith had beaten through Soho and the Village. The print version featured the map, above. Unmarked at the southern end of the map sits Our Lady of Vilnius, well within Ms. Highsmith's radius, but not on her radar .

The phrase in the article that caught me was:

"We were engaging in ambulomancy or “divination by walking,” Ms. Schenkar explained, stepping through Highsmith country in order to understand the writer herself. “Every physical location is also an emotional location,” Ms. Schenkar noted."

"How true," I thought. Then I thought of Our Lady of Vilnius, the church and the rectory, silent, empty and unmarked at the southern end of the little map that will be seen by thousands, if not millions, today. Over fifty years since I first set foot in this church and nearly 3 years after the church was closed, I am still imbued with its flavor. When we visit the church, we pray that this emotional location, so important to many of us, will not be lost.

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