In Touch

In Touch

by Paul Bowles, Jeffrey Miller
     
 

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This extraordinary collection of correspondence by Paul Bowles spans eight decades and provides an evolving portrait of an artist renowned for his privacy. From his earliest extant letter, written at the age of four, to his precocious effusions to Aaron Copeland and to Gertrude Stein; from his meditations on mescaline as relayed to Ned Rorem, to his intensely

Overview

This extraordinary collection of correspondence by Paul Bowles spans eight decades and provides an evolving portrait of an artist renowned for his privacy. From his earliest extant letter, written at the age of four, to his precocious effusions to Aaron Copeland and to Gertrude Stein; from his meditations on mescaline as relayed to Ned Rorem, to his intensely moving letters to Jane Bowles during her illness, In Touch fills in the lacunae left by previous biographers and offers a rare look at the many aspects of Bowles's brilliant career—as composer, novelist, short-story master, travel writer, translator, ethnographer, and literary critic.

Here is Bowles on the genesis of his first novel, The Sheltering Sky; on his distaste for Western melodies and his dogged attempts to record indigenous Moroccan music; on the Beats, Gore Vidal, Truman Capote, and Tennessee Williams; on the nature and craft of writing; on Bernardo Bertolucci, David Byrne, and Sting; on the decline of American and the challenges of living in North Africa. Gossipy, reflective, enlightening, and always entertaining, In Touch stands as an epistolary autobiography of one of the legendary writers of our time, and a unique chronicle of the twentieth-century avant-garde.

Editorial Reviews

From the Publisher

“[Bowles' letters] are full of dazzling descriptions of faraway places. . . . [The collection] is a fascinating, tonic history of the counterculture.” —Kirkus Reviews

“It's the beauty of Bowles' writing that makes In Touch especially engaging.” —Entertainment Weekly

Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
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.)
Library Journal
Declaring that journals meant for oneself are a farce and that those meant for publication are immediately subject to self-censorship, Bowles asked himself, ``Is there another way of looking at it? A letter, I suppose.'' These missives from the renowned expatriate, author of The Sheltering Sky , offer an overview of the avant-garde in the 20th century.
Kirkus Reviews
"Places have always been more important to me than people," Bowles (b. 1910) confesses in one of more than 400 letters collected here by Miller. Spanning more than seven decades, the letters offer no intimate revelations and little celebrity gossip—but they're full of dazzling descriptions of faraway places. "At Asni the trees are full of peacocks that scream murder. The road swarms with children who hand us amethysts till we have nowhere to put them." With campy wit, Bowles compares the exotic to the homegrown mundane: In a Saharan oasis, the coarse grass "looks like the stuff they put in Woolworth's windows on the floor of the display cases at Easter time"; in a Berber village, "the streets and walls look as if someone had poured tons of white cake- icing over them." It's not surprising, then, that Bowles-the- writer's letters add up to a book that one would rather quote than discuss. What is surprising is the strength of Bowles-the- composer's devotion to Berber music and Bowles-the-husband's devotion to his wife through long years of illness. Descended from New England Puritans, Bowles read Poe at age six and took off from there. In the 30's, he was close to Gertrude Stein and Aaron Copland. In the 50's, he befriended Tennessee Williams, Truman Capote, and Gore Vidal. In his pursuit of sexual adventure and his reliance on the drug kif, he was way ahead of the pack—led by Ginsberg and Burroughs—that hit Tangier in the 60's. More recently, Ph.D. candidates have elicited from him pithy statements on writing (on the hermetic absorption needed to complete a novel: "Don't let the air in; it kills the fetus"). About a quarter of the collection is deadwood—chat about agents, contracts, fees—but read in one sitting, it's a fascinating, tonic history of the counterculture in what was for a time the American century. (Photographs)

Product Details

ISBN-13:
9780374524593
Publisher:
Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Publication date:
03/10/2004
Edition description:
Reprint
Pages:
604
Product dimensions:
6.00(w) x 9.00(h) x 1.40(d)

Meet the Author

Paul Bowles's novels include The Sheltering Sky, The Spider's House, and Let It Come Down. He is also the author of numerous short stories, travel essays, and translations, as well as an autobiography, Without Stopping, and a journal, Days. He lives in Tangier, Morocco.

Jeffrey Miller is the author of Paul Bowles: A Descriptive Bibliography, and is the publisher of Cadmus Editions in Tiburon, California. He has been collecting the letters of Paul Bowles for nearly twenty years.

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