An Invisible Spectator: A Biography of Paul Bowles

Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno, Author Grove/Atlantic $24.95 (501p) ISBN 978-1-55584-116-4
Though Bowles's ( The Sheltering Sky ) complex personal life (including marriage to Jane Bowles, a lesbian) and celebrated globetrotting are narrated conscientiously by MIT foreign language teacher Sawyer-Laucanno in this first biography of the novelist, the intriguing links between the life and the work--and the intricate scope of the work itself--are not fully probed. Born in 1910 in New York City, the only child of a violent, troubled father and beleaguered mother, Bowles was initially a poet, then a composer (and protege of Aaron Copland) before hitting his stride in fiction, where he proved ``a master of charting inner disintegration, madness and terror,'' characteristically creating ``a rather chilling sense . . . that the observer is incapable of any real involvement in the action'' and often choosing North Africa, Malaysia, Mexico or South America--exotically free of the binding ties of Western morality--as settings. Though influential on the Beat movement, in part because of his experiments with drugs and ``automatic'' writing, Bowles has not received the critical attention his fine work, particularly the short stories, deserves. Sawyer-Laucanno's attentive but modest effort, will, one hopes, be only the first. Photos not seen by PW . (June)
Reviewed on: 01/01/1989
Release date: 01/01/1989
Hardcover - 501 pages - 978-0-7475-0088-9
Paperback - 978-0-88001-257-7
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