I was curious to learn more about Jane Bowles after being reminded of her in Zambreno’s Heroines. I read her mysteriously wonderful Two Serious Ladies a year ago and realize I’m due for a refresher. Zambreno’s work uncovers her as one of the broken, “mad” wives of writers; interestingly, Jane published Two Serious Ladies before Paul started writing fiction (he’d been focused on writing music but could not get enough quiet/silence to concentrate, and the bio claims that his involvement in helping Jane with Ladies led him to write). As for the biography, it’s sadly mediocre in terms of what current audiences expect. There is extensive quoting (pages upon pages) directly from Jane’s letters instead of parsing out bits and leading to a conclusive thought. A lot of the info seemed gleaned from conversations and interviews Dillon had had with old friends of Jane’s (and with Paul), which makes me wonder the truthiness of what lay within. Clearly this was a talented woman. Clearly she was an artistic, unconventional soul. She had trouble making decisions, this is echoed throughout everyone’s recollection. She didn’t want to limit herself to the wrong choice, so was frozen. Her stroke at age 40 leaves her more fragile than ever, damaging her vision and speech centers. A decade later, she’s in a psychiatric hospital in Malaga, Spain. A few years later, dead.
In response to a request for a short biography for World Authors in 1967:
I started to “write” when I was about fifteen and was obliged to do composition in school. I always thought it the most loathsome of all activities, and still do. At the same time I felt even then that I had to do it.
It was only after the end of World War II that I came to Morocco. Paul had come ahead of me and bought a house in Tangier. From the first day, Morocco seemed more dreamlike than real. I felt cut off from what I knew. In the twenty years that I have lived here I have written only two short stories, and nothing else. It’s good for Paul, but not for me.