cover image In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles

In Touch: The Letters of Paul Bowles

Paul Bowles. Farrar Straus Giroux, $30 (604pp) ISBN 978-0-374-18510-7

Expatriate American novelist, story writer and composer Bowles, who has lived in Morocco for nearly a half century, is a prolific letter writer, as attested to by his expansive, conversational correspondences with the likes of Allen Ginsberg, William Burroughs, Gore Vidal and Virgil Thomson. A vast humming tableau of the avant-garde, these 400-plus letters extending from 1928 to 1991, vividly evoke Bowles's frenetic activity in the Paris of the 1930s and '40s, where he met Jean Cocteau, Ezra Pound, Gertrude Stein and painter Pavel Tchelitchew. Peppered with firsthand impressions of Tennessee Williams, Leonard Bernstein, Kurt Schwitters, Aaron Copland and many others, the volume, edited by his biographer, also contains Bowles's sharp lyrical travel observations from Mexico to Ceylon, as well as his reflections on the unconscious processes that guide his writing of fiction. Most revealing are his letters to his wife Jane Bowles during her 16 years of suffering from a neurological disorder that destroyed her eyesight and led to strokes, convulsive seizures and electroshock therapy for depression. Photos. (Jan.)