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Paul Bowles: A Life [Kindle Edition]

Virginia Spencer Carr
3.7 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (3 customer reviews)

Print List Price: $21.95
Kindle Price: $18.77
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Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc

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Book Description

Paul Bowles, best known for his classic 1949 novel, The Sheltering Sky, is one of the most compelling yet elusive figures of twentieth-century American counterculture. In this definitive biography, Virginia Spencer Carr has captured Bowles in his many guises: gifted composer, expatriate novelist, and gay icon, to name only a few. Born in New York in 1910, Bowles' brilliance was evident from early childhood. His first artistic interest was music, which he studied with the composer Aaron Copland. Bowles wrote scores for films and countless plays, including pieces by Tennessee Williams and Orson Welles. Over the course of his life, his intellectual pursuits led him around the world. He cultivated a circle of artistic friends that included Gertrude Stein, W.H. Auden, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, Allen Ginsburg, William Burroughs, Stephen Spender, and Carson McCullers.  Just as fascinating for his flamboyant personality as for his literary success, Bowles' leftist politics and experimentation with drugs make him an ever-controversial character. Carr delves into Bowles' unconventional marriage to Jane Auer and his self-exile in Morocco. Close friends with him before his death in 1999, Carr's first-hand knowledge of Bowles is undeniable. This book encompasses her personal experiences plus ten years of research and interviews with some two hundred of Bowles' acquaintances. Virginia Spencer Carr has written a riveting biography that tells not only the story of Paul Bowles' literary genius, but also of a crucial period of redefinition in American culture. Carr is simultaneously entertaining and precise, delivering a wealth of information on one of the most mythologized figures of mid-century literature.

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Editorial Reviews

Review

"Carr deeply mines Bowles' childhood and early years as a spokesman for non-Western music; her account of his initial success as a novelist (The Sheltering Sky, inspired by Jane's writing) moves blithely and is chock-full of encounters with famous musicians and belletrists. . . Nonanalytical and nonjudgmental, very much the way Bowles would have wanted it."--<i>Kirkus Reviews</i>

About the Author

Virginia Spencer Carr is the acclaimed biographer of Carson McCullers and John Dos Passos. She holds the John B. and Elena Díaz-Versón Amos Distinguished Chair in English at Georgia State University. She lives in Atlanta.


Product Details

  • File Size: 2156 KB
  • Print Length: 450 pages
  • Page Numbers Source ISBN: 0684196573
  • Publisher: Scribner (October 26, 2004)
  • Sold by: Simon and Schuster Digital Sales Inc
  • Language: English
  • ASIN: B003DYGONM
  • Text-to-Speech: Not enabled
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  • Lending: Not Enabled
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #907,202 Paid in Kindle Store (See Top 100 Paid in Kindle Store)
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Customer Reviews

3.7 out of 5 stars
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Most Helpful Customer Reviews
9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
Format:Hardcover
Virginia Spencer Carr is not only a fine biographer in this recounting of the life of the ubiquitous Paul Bowles, she also was a friend of a fascinating man who touched many aspects of the arts and made his mark in multiple areas of creation. Some of those areas were in his friendships and interpersonal critiquing of famous artists such as WH Auden, Benjamin Britten, Ned Rorem, Aaron Copland, Tennessee Williams, Virgil Thompson, Carson McCullers, and Gertrude Stein. His life began as a poet, progressed through years as a composer of music that never quite found its place, and ended as a novelist of such impressive books as 'The Sheltering Sky', 'Let It Com Down', 'The Spider's House' etc.

Carr takes all this into account and serves it up with a thorough amount of information about Bowles' carefully guarded private life. Married to lesbian author Jane Bowles, Paul Bowles was one of those sub rosa gay artists who managed to bond with many other great gay artists in a time when such interplay was hardly condoned. Carr manages to give insight as to how these people learned form each other (for instance the infamous February House in New York where many of them lived communally for a while); she does this without resorting to gossip or sensationalism, respecting the fact that writing biography includes an obligation to yield a viable picture of the subject.

Bowles spent much of his life in Tangiers (this is where Carr first met him) and most of his successful novels and writings were influenced by his observations of the clashes between the 'tourists' who visit Morocco yet never connects with the realites and idiosyncrasies of that mysteriously magical place. Much the same could be said about the ambiguous persona of Paul Bowles.
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8 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars what happened? January 30, 2005
By jibli
Format:Hardcover|Verified Purchase
this book, we are told, was originally a manuscript of 1,308 pages. i mention this because one comes upon paragraphs here and there that seem part of a longer work. the first chapters are by far the best with the narrative smooth and the early years "fleshed out". however, when bowles' artistic carreer begins so do the problems, which may have to do with the tremendous job of cutting out 3/4 of the original manuscript.

the book contains no new important information or point of view but there are some new details here and there ( mainly about press runs, money matters and sexual partners).

ms. carr travelled 13 times to tangier for her research, arranged for bowles' medical operations in the u.s.a. and had her subject as a house guest for 3 months. however, bowles' literary executor refused to authorize this biography. we are not told why.
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3 of 9 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A Solid Effort January 22, 2010
Format:Paperback
Bowles is an odd sort. He rose to fame and fortune in an artistic era when it was possible to know only 5 people in New York City and, if they were the right people, make a literary career from them. He literally slept his way to the top, bedding musical and literary celebrities from NYC to Berlin, Hollywood, London and Morocco. Isherwood, we are told, named his famous Sally Bowles after him. He was Aaron Copeland's lover for years. He ran in high artisitc circles, including Gore Vidal, Peggy Guggenheim, and Tennessee Williams. He got most of his commissions from them. His wife, Jane Bowles, ran in even higher circles, bedding grand heiresses, including Woolworth and Reynolds, who bankrolled her theatre productions and pulled strings to see her fiction published. Finally, Jane went off her rocker, jealous, evidently, over her husband's sustained success. Having moved in the gay aristocracy of the 30s, Bowles's attracted the next generation of drug and sex fiends, including Ginsburg and Burroughs, after establishing residence in North Africa. His wife became a rather hopeless alcoholic whose literary production was reduced to a trickleuntil her early death in Spain. Although a success in virtually every artistic endeavor, he seems to have failed to make enough money to retire gracefully. The author tells us that he was reduced to teaching fiction writing in old age, no doubt a rather serious comedown for such a lofty gentlemen, who once traveled first class, and kept a household of servants, sexual and otherwise. One wonders why he ever joined the communist party, given his taste for the high life. One gathers that Bowles lived long enough to see the world change dramatically. It's a story of a closed world. Read more ›
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