If one painted more forgeries than one's own paintings, wouldn't the forgeries become more natural, more real, more genuine to oneself, even, than one's own painting?The thing that is so clever about this scam is that so many of the paintings bearing Derwatt's name are already forgeries, so if one has Tom Ripley's rubbery sense of identity one can equally ask - what is a genuine Derwatt painting? If there are more forgeries than there are actual Derwatt's and people pay for and enjoy the forgeries as originals, don't they become original. Well, no Tom, no, they don't . But Tom is unrivaled in the plasticity he is able to endow the props that constitute an identity - one's face, one's signature, one's clothes, the turn of phrase that other's recognize one by - these are all mere playthings to Tom. And he interacts with few people, manipulating things from a distance so that the life of the impersonated is just a shadowy illusion and those that have met him are then hard pressed to remember exactly who they met. This new scam is a bit different. Tom must assume a disguise and meet someone on demand - face to face - as the man he impersonates.
So far the plot is fun enough, but only having read a few chapters in, Highsmith has not yet embroiled us in the tremendous sense of suspense she was able to cook up by the end of first Ripley book. So far I am actually a little disappointed with the clumsy exposition and the feeling that her efforts to set up another clever impersonation for Tom are a bit contrived, but I am going to suspend judgment and read further since the first book really delivered the goods after a while. I also really wanted a plot-driven book to accompany the slower-paced Margaret Drabble novel I am reading. We are getting near the end of the semester and with the burden of a lot of projects, when I escape into a book I really want to be grabbed!