Carol (Patricia Highsmith)


While observing professors in lecture, it’s probably hard to imagine that they spend time reading extra material besides essays and student projects—do they even have the luxury of free time to do so?

The Medium sits down with Dr. Michelle MacArthur, a women and gender studies professor at UTM, to ask her about what she’s reading.

The Medium: Tell us a little bit about what you’re reading.

Michelle MacArthur: I’m reading the book Carol, which was previously titled The Price of Salt, by Patricia Highsmith. It was originally written in 1952 about the relationship between two women who meet kind of accidentally, and they fall in love during a time when women and queer people didn’t necessarily have the same rights that they have today and were not able to be as open about it. It’s kind of about how they deal with these feelings for each other in a time when it’s very difficult to be public and to articulate this kind of desire.

TM: It’s a movie now, isn’t it?

MM: Yes! I saw the movie and I think it’s quite good. Not as good as the book, but it’s quite a beautiful movie and both actors give really strong performances.

TM: What made you pick up the book?

MM: Well, I hadn’t heard of this book, but then my friend who has a salon—she calls it a salon, but it’s really like a book club—she picked this book for us to read and she gave me a copy for Christmas so I had no excuse to not read it.

TM: Have you read any other books by this author, or do you have any other writers that you prefer?

MM: This is the first time I’m reading Highsmith. She is quite a prolific author, and she’s written The Talented Mr. Ripley, which was also made into a film. Carol, I think, was actually an inspiration for the film Thelma and Louise, as well as the book Lolita. In terms of other authors that I enjoy, I kind of try to read a bunch of different things. I like reading women authors and supporting their work. I also like reading humorous books.

TM: Do you find it difficult to find time to read with work and your personal life?

MM: Growing up I was really an avid reader, a total bookworm. When I started my graduate studies, I kind of stopped reading for pleasure. I had to do so much reading for school, but I think once I finished my Ph.D. a couple of years ago, I started to make the time to do more reading of fiction. I think it’s so nice because it allows you to escape into a different world and to think about things in a different way.

This interview has been edited for clarity and length.