Fun_People Archive
25 Nov
Composer Paul Bowles Dies at 88

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From: Peter Langston <psl>
Date: Thu, 25 Nov 99 02:12:50 -0800
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Subject: Composer Paul Bowles Dies at 88

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[A week ago I played a gig with a friend who used to correspond with Paul  
Bowles 30 years ago.  She said he had repeatedly expressed amazement that so  
many people thought he was a writer when he was really just a composer...  

New York Times, November 19, 1999

Writer Paul Bowles Dies at 88
By Mel Gussow

Paul Bowles, the novelist, composer, poet and quintessential outsider of
American literature, died of a heart attack Thursday in a hospital in
Tangier, Morocco.

He was 88, and throughout his life, he remained an artist whose name evoked
an atmosphere of dark, lonely Moroccan streets and endless scorching
deserts, a haze of hashish and drug-induced visions.

Bowles was taken to the hospital on Nov. 7 from his home in Tangier, where
he had lived since 1947.

He was most famous for his stories and his novels, especially "The
Sheltering Sky." He was also known for his songs, concertos, incidental
music and operas; for his marriage to Jane Bowles, a novelist and playwright
who died in 1973, and, simply, for being Paul Bowles.

He became an icon of individualism. Although he remained elusive to his
biographers as well as his critics, his life as an expatriate was as
fascinating as his own experiments in art.

One of the last of his cultural generation, what might be called the
post-Lost Generation, he knew and occasionally collaborated with many of
the major artistic figures of his time, among them Orson Welles, Tennessee
Williams and Gertrude Stein. He put a stamp of sui generis on whatever he
chose to do, or not to do. In many ways, his career was one of avoidance.

In an interview with The New York Times in 1995, the last time he visited
New York, he said that a typical Bowles fictional character "slips through
life, if possible without touching anything, without touching other people."
Asked if that was how he lived his own life, he admitted: "I've tried. It's
hard. If you discover you're affecting other people, you have to stop doing
whatever you're doing."

Bowles's fiction deals with civilization overcome by savagery, a world in
which innocence is corrupted and delirium thrives. At the core is a feeling
of isolation, self-contained compartments in which people live alone and
are fearful of communication. As he said in an interview in The Paris Review
in 1981, "Everyone is isolated from everyone else." A Place Of Wisdom,
Ecstasy, Even Death."

Although Bowles's 1972 autobiography was titled "Without Stopping," his
career was filled with stops and restarts. At various points he turned away
from music and took up fiction, gave up writing novels, retreated to Tangier
and became a collector of Arabian stories and songs, and moved farther away
from the worlds of publishing and society toward an unknown destination.

As he said in his autobiography, "Like any Romantic, I had always been
vaguely certain that sometime during my life I should come into a magic
place which, in disclosing its secrets, would give me wisdom and ecstasy --
perhaps even death." In contrast to other writers who chose to keep their
names in the public spotlight, Bowles steadfastly preferred not to, avoiding
commitments and rejecting offers." I'm not ambitious," he said. "If I had
been, I'd have stayed in New York."

Bowles became a magnet for those envisioning the artist's life away from
the mainstream. It is not surprising that he was idolized by writers of the
Beat Generation, many of whom visited him in Tangier.

Allen Ginsberg called him "a caviar writer."

Sweet Songs, Light in Texture

There were two sides to Bowles's art, as Ned Rorem explained in his memoir
"Knowing When to Stop." Rorem said that Bowles's stories were "icy, cruel,
objective" and his music was "warm, wistful, witty."

It was his feeling that of his 50 stories only two were marked by violence.
In one of the most brutal--and most admired--stories, "A Distant Thunder," a
professor is captured by nomads who cut out his tongue and treat him as
their slave.

Virgil Thomson said about Bowles's work as a composer: "Paul Bowles's songs
are enchanting for their sweetness of mood, their lightness of texture, for
in general their way of being wholly alive and right. . . .  The texts fit
their tunes like a peach in its skin."

One of the oddities of Bowles's life is that this international traveler,
who was marked by his rootlessness and who was seemingly a wanderer in the
desert of his own choice, was born into a middle-class environment in
Jamaica, Queens. During his childhood, Jamaica was still a bucolic
environment with sheep grazing on the main street.

In one family legend, Claude Bowles,  who was a dentist, tried to kill his
son, Paul, in infancy by stripping off the baby's clothes and placing him
in a basket on a windowsill during a snowstorm. According to the story, he
was rescued by his grandmother. In his biography of  Bowles, "An Invisible
Spectator," Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno said that the incident might not
have happened "but Bowles has always believed it to be true," and it haunted

He could read by the time he was 3 and within the year was writing stories.
Soon, he wrote surrealistic poetry and music. When he was 16, he published
poetry in Transition magazine.

Until he was 18, he followed a rigidly formalized life. Then, in his first
semester at the University of Virginia, he suddenly quit school. He left
the United States without telling his parents, expecting never to see them
again.  For the first of several times, he changed his life.

In characteristic Bowles fashion, he fled to Paris. He once said that he
was not running away but was "running toward something, although I didn't
know what at the time."    A year later, he returned to the United States
, where he met Aaron Copland and began to study composition with him. For
four months he lived in Berlin, where one of his friends was Christopher
Isherwood, who was gathering material for what would later become the book
"Goodbye to Berlin." Isherwood named his leading character Sally Bowles
after Paul Bowles.

In 1931, at the suggestion of Stein and Alice B. Toklas, Bowles went to
Morocco, where he and Copland shared a house in Tangier.

Instant Rapport and Countless Affairs

By the mid-1930s, he was back in New York. He wrote musical scores for
Orson Welles and later for works by William Saroyan, Tennessee Williams and
others. In 1937 he met Jane Auer. She was a lesbian, and he was bisexual;
there was an immediate rapport and an intimacy. Within a year they were

Through countless affairs on both sides, they remained married and
permanently attached to each other.  Looking back on their marriage, Bowles
said: "We played everything by ear. Each one did what he pleased."

At first, he focused on his music while she began writing a novel. When she
gave him a draft of him in Mexico in 1945, he read it carefully and, acting
as editor, suggested changes. The book, "Two Serious Ladies," received mixed
reviews, but it was the beginning of Jane Bowles's literary reputation, and
it acted as an inspiration to her husband. "It was the excitement of
participating in that that got me interested in writing," he said to
Millicent Dillon, author of biographies of both Bowleses.

In New York, the Bowleses were immersed in a literary world. In the early
1940s they lived with other artists in a house on Middagh Street in
Brooklyn Heights.  The residents included W. H. Auden, Benjamin Britten and
Oliver Smith, the scenic designer. For two years in the late 1940s the
couple lived on West 10th Street in Manhattan. Smith rented three floors of
a brownstone. Bowles lived on the top floor, Smith was on the floor below,
and another flight down lived Jane Bowles and her friend Helvetia Perkins.
The four shared a cook and lived communally. For a time, the first two
floors in the house were occupied by Dashiell Hammett.

During this period, Bowles wrote scores for seven plays (including "The
Glass Menagerie") and collaborated with Tennessee Williams on the song
fragments "Blue Mountain Ballads." He also returned to writing short stories
and translated Jean-Paul Sartre's play "Huis Clos," retitling it "No Exit."
Identifying with the credo of the play, he said that mankind could be saved
not through faith "but only by ourselves by looking straight at our own
weaknesses so that we know them through and through."

One night in 1947 Bowles had a dream about "the magic city" of Tangier, one
of his homes during the 1930s, and he decided to return there. Before
departing, he had an idea for a novel that would take place in the Sahara,
and he thought of a title, "The Sheltering Sky," borrowing it from the
popular song, "Down Among the Sheltering Palms." Later his wife joined him
in Tangier. Published in 1949, "The Sheltering Sky" quickly became the
foundation of his estimable career as an author. He described the book as
"an adventure story in which the adventures take place on two planes
simultaneously: in the actual desert and in the inner desert of the spirit."

The central characters are Port and Kit Moresby, a married couple who are
generally considered to be surrogates for Paul and Jane Bowles. But in his
Paris Review interview, Bowles denied that possibility: "The tale is
entirely imaginary. Kit is not Jane, although I used some of Jane's
characteristics in determining Kit's reactions to such a voyage. Obviously
I thought of Port as a fictional extension of myself. But Port is certainly
not Paul Bowles, any more than Kit is Jane."

The story leads ineluctably to Port's death, which the reader sees from the
character's point of view: "It was in the silence of the room that he now
located all those hostile forces: the very fact that the room's inert
watchfulness was on all sides made him distrust it.  Outside himself, it
was all there was. He looked at the line made by the joining of the wall
and the floor, endeavored to fix it in his mind, that he might have
something to hang on to when his eyes should shut."

A Best Seller and a Film

Reviewing the book in The New York Times Book Review, Tennessee Williams
proclaimed the author as "a talent of true maturity and sophistication."
Williams said it was one of the few books by an American writer "to bear
the spiritual imprint of recent history in the Western world."

In a review in The Times of a subsequent Bowles novel, Conrad Knickerbocker
ranked "The Sheltering Sky" "with the dozen or so most important American
novels published since World War II." The book became a best seller and was
sold to the movies, but it was to be 40 years before it was filmed. In 1990
Bernardo Bertolucci's lavish movie, starring John Malkovich and Debra Winger
and with Bowles himself playing a cameo role, received mixed reviews. The
author was disappointed. His one-word criticism of the film: "Awful."

The novel was followed, in 1952, by "Let It Come Down," about an American
bank clerk who journeys to Tangier and is caught up in a world of intrigue
and corruption.

"The Spider's House" (1955) deals with an American novelist living in Fez
during a Nationalist revolt. It was 11 years before Bowles published his
next novel, "Up Above the World." At the center of that book are an American
doctor and his wife, adrift in Central America and held captive by a
charming man of mystery.  Neither novel measured up to Bowles's first

In Morocco he began translating the stories of Arab writers, particularly
Mohammed Mrabet. Because Bowles seldom traveled, friends (and journalists
and potential biographers) came to see him as if on a pilgrimage. Eventually
his dream city of Tangier was invaded by tourists and became something of
a nightmare. Still he stayed on.

He lived alone in a modern apartment building in Tangier. For many years,
he limited his contacts with the outside world by refusing to have a
telephone, but recently had installed both a phone and fax.

There are no survivors.

Cherie Nutting's "Yesterday's Perfume," a photographic diary of Bowles's last
years, with text by the author, is scheduled to be published in the fall of

"I live in the present," Bowles said, and added about the past: "I remember it
as one remembers a landscape, an unchanging landscape. That which has happened
is finished. I suppose you could say that a man can learn how to avoid making
the same actions which he's discovered were errors. I would recommend not
thinking about it."

For Bowles, the point of life is to have fun, "if there is any point at all."
Enjoyment, he said firmly, "is what life should provide."

When it was suggested to him that others might say that life should provide a
greater moral purpose, he said: "What is moral purpose? The word 'moral' sets
nothing ringing in my head. Who decides what's moral and what isn't? Right
behavior, is that moral? Well, what?s right behavior?"

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Into a Desert of the Spirit

"During the middle of the day it was no longer the sun alone that persecuted
>from above?the entire sky was like a metal dome grown white with heat. The
merciless light pushed down from all directions; the sun was the whole sky.
They took to traveling only at night, setting out shortly after twilight
and halting at the first sign of the rising sun. The sand had been left far
behind, and so had the great dead stony plains. Now there was a gray,
insectlike vegetation everywhere, a tortured scrub of hard shells and stiff
hairy spines that covered the earth like an excrescence of hatred."
 					- From "The Sheltering Sky" (1949)

Selected Works of Paul Bowles

   The Sheltering Sky (1949)
   Let It Come Down (1952)
   The Spider's House (1955)
   Up Above the World (1966)
   Too Far From Home (1991)

Short-Story Collections
   The Delicate Prey and Other Stories (1950)
   A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard (1962)
   The Time of Friendship (1967)
   Pages From Cold Point and Other Stories (1968)
   Things Gone and Things Still Here (1977)
   Midnight Mass (1981)
   A Distant Episode: The Selected Stories (1988)
   Call at Corazon (1988)
   Unwelcome Words: Seven Stories (1988)
   A Thousand Days for Mokhtar and Other Stories (1989)

Non Fiction
   Without Stopping: An Autobiography (1972)

   Suite for Small Orchestra (1932-33)
   Horse Eats Hat (theater music, 1936)
   Denmark Vesey (opera, 1939)
   My Heart's in the Highlands (theater music, 1939)
   The Wind Remains (zarzuela based on text by Garcia Lorca, 1943)
   The Glass Menagerie (theater music, 1943)
   Blue Mountain Ballads (text by Tennessee Williams, 1946)
   Summer and Smoke (theater music, 1948)
   In the Summer House (theater music, 1953)
   Yerma (libretto based on text by Garcia Lorca, 1958)

=====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====

Writer Paul Bowles Dies at 88

Associated Press Writer

TANGIERS, Morocco (AP) -- Paul Bowles, the American author of "The
Sheltering Sky'' who was known for taking in literary and artistic figures
at his adopted home of Tangiers, died Thursday. He was 88.

Hospitalized since Nov. 7 with serious cardiac problems, Bowles died of a
heart attack in the Mediterranean port of Tangiers, where he had lived for
more than 50 years.

Bowles, who was also an accomplished composer, was best known for his novels
set in exotic North African settings -- including "Sheltering Sky,'' his
first and most famous. His descriptions in that book of burning sands, open
skies and lonely North African landscapes, and his finesse in describing
the psychological unraveling of a character lost in the sands prompted
Modern Library to name "The Sheltering Sky,'' as one of the 100 best
English-language novels of the century.

The book was made into a 1990 movie that starred John Malkovich and Debra

The novels "Let It Come Down'' and "The Spider's House'' are also set in
Morocco. He also wrote "The Delicate Prey and Other Stories'' and the novel
"Up Above The World.''

Bowles was born Dec. 30, 1910, in New York City, but rarely returned to his
native city after settling in 1947 in Tangiers, the great city on Africa's
northern coast across the Mediterranean from Spain.

Over the years Bowles became a father figure to several writers, including
William Burroughs and Allen Ginsburg. Truman Capote was also among those
who traveled to see him and share in the hedonism of the Tangiers scene,
well known to expatriates.

Tennessee Williams, a friend of Bowles, called him the American writer who
probably best represented the world in which we live "so precariously from
day and night to each uncertain tomorrow.''

Despite his prolific writing career, Bowles' early talent was music and he
built an impressive career as a composer at a young age.

Bowles studied with the modern American composer Aaron Copland and worked
closely with other greats including Leonard Bernstein. During the 1930s and
1940s, Bowles was a sought-out composer of Broadway music. He also composed
chamber works, opera and art songs.

During his years in Morocco, Bowles collected and documented the music of
the people of the Rif Mountains for the U.S. Library of Congress.

Born to Claude Dietz Bowles, a dentist, and Rena Winnewisser Bowles, Bowles
was an only -- and lonely -- child. Lacking playmates, he entertained
himself, much of the time writing poetry and stories.

He spent a year at the University of Virginia. After a surrealist literary
review published a couple of his poems, his life quickly became one of
writing, composing and traveling.

In 1938, he married Jane Sydney Auer, also a writer. The couple lived here
and there, including Mexico, Brooklyn Heights and Sri Lanka (then Ceylon),
before settling in Tangiers. His wife died in 1973.

Bowles returned to music late in his life, composing the score in 1992 for
an Arabic-language production of the Greek tragedy "Hippolytus.''

He was also an accomplished translator. Over the years, Bowles translated
the works of Moroccan writers Mohammed Choukri and Mohammed Mrabet, winning
him deep admiration in his adopted land.

Bowles, whose sight failed him as he grew old, had lived as a recluse in
Tangiers for many years. He was served to his last breath by Abdelouahed
Boulaich, his Moroccan butler who had worked for him for the last 30 years.

There was no immediate word on survivors or funeral plans.

=====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====  =====

U.S. novelist Bowles's health improves slightly


RABAT, Nov 17 (Reuters) - The health of U.S. novelist and composer Paul
Bowles is improving but he is undergoing further treatment in a Moroccan
hospital where he was admitted earlier this week, a medical source said on

Bowles, 88, wrote the classic best-seller "The Sheltering Sky,'' about
disaffected Americans searching for inspiration and romance in the
shimmering mirages of Morocco's rocky desert shortly after World War Two.

"Bowles' health has slightly improved on Wednesday and he was feeling. He
had his lunch this afternoon but visitors were not allowed to see him yet,''
a spokeswoman for the Italian hospital told Reuters. The spokeswoman
declined to say whether Bowles was likely to leave the hospital anytime

The hospital is located in a residential area of Morocco's northern city of

"The Sheltering Sky'' was made into a movie by Italian director Bernardo
Bertolucci under the same title.

Bowles first visited Morocco in 1945, like many disillusioned American
intellectuals in the wake of World War Two, and has since lived in the
Mediterranean city of Tangier, which hosted other famous writers like
Tennessee Williams and William Burroughs.

Described by one biographer as the most distinguished living American
expatriate author, Bowles's other well-known works include "The Spider's
House,'' a novel set in Fez during the early days of the Arab nationalist
revolt in Morocco which eventually led to independence from France.

Born in New York in 1910, Bowles was an accomplished 20th century composer
before becoming famous as an author.

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Paul Bowles, U.S. Novelist, Composer, Dead

Ali Bouzerda

TANGIER, Morocco (Reuters) - U.S. novelist and composer Paul Bowles, best
known for his novel "The Sheltering Sky," died of a heart attack Thursday
in the Moroccan city of Tangier. He was 88.

Bowles, who spent more than half his life in Morocco, wrote scores of
volumes of prose, poetry, essays and letters. He studied music with American
composer Aaron Copland, going on to produce a number of mostly orchestral
pieces including the music for Tennessee Williams' "Summer and Smoke."?

A spokeswoman for the Italian Hospital in Tangier told Reuters, "Bowles died
this morning after a heart attack, around midday."  A Moroccan official in
Tangier said the writer's body was expected to be repatriated to the United
States soon. U.S. embassy officials were not immediately available for

Jamal Amiar, editor of Tangier-based Les Nouvelles du Nord, who was familiar
with Bowles and his books, said the author was admitted to the hospital

"The writer's health slightly improved Wednesday.... Several Moroccan
writers visited him.... But suddenly he died,'' Amiar said.

Bowles was born in New York in 1910. His best-selling novel "The Sheltering
Sky" told of alienated Americans searching for inspiration and romance in
the Moroccan desert shortly after the Second World War.

The book was made into a film by Italian director Bernardo Bertolucci under
the same title.

"He?s been regarded as the first, and maybe the only, American
existentialist,?? said a biographer, Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno.

"He was one of the first American writers to really zero in on man alienated
>from himself. Therefore, man retreats into a landscape. Where Bowles is
really best is in dealing with man and landscape.??

Bowles first visited Morocco in 1945 -- like many disillusioned American
intellectuals in the wake of the Second World War?and settled in the
Mediterranean city of Tangier, which hosted other famous writers like
Tennessee Williams and William Burroughs.

Among Bowles novels were "The Delicate Prey?? (1950), "Let It Come Down??
(1952), "The Spider?s House?? (1955) and "Up Above The World?? (1966).

He also published collections of short stories, travel writing, poetry and
an autobiography "Without Stopping,?? which describes his meetings with many
people pivotal to the Beat Generation.

He married writer Jane Auer (later Jane Bowles) in 1938. Theirs was an
unorthodox marriage. Both were gay and had significant relationships with
others during their marriage.

Jane Bowles died in Malaga, Spain, in 1973 in her mid-50s after many years
of ill health.

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