Reviews provided by Syndetics
Library Journal Review
Bowles originally made his mark writing music, but his fiction has proven far more original and influential. His best-selling first novel, The Sheltering Sky ( LJ 11/15/49), introduced existential themes to American readers, and it and his other novels and finely crafted stories have deepened our understanding of Latin America and the Moslem world. In this pioneering biography the man himself emerges as somewhat less than sympathetic, ``an individual alone, isolated in his self-involvement.'' Recommended for collections of 20th-century American literature. Bowles's most recent book is A Distant Episode: The Selected Stories ( LJ 12/88).-- Grove Koger, Boise P.L., Id. (c) Copyright 2010. Library Journals LLC, a wholly owned subsidiary of Media Source, Inc. No redistribution permitted.
Publishers Weekly Review
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) (c) Copyright PWxyz, LLC. All rights reserved
Paul Bowles has importance both as a composer and writer and as the friend of almost everyone important in music or literature since the 1930s. Around 1931 he became an important composer, making the transition to man of letters in 1945-46, and becoming a cult figure in the 1970s. Sawyer-Laucanno has written the best biography of Bowles that we are likely to see. It is based on full and careful research, discussions with Bowles himself, interviews with his friends, and considerable sensitivity on the part of the biographer. The biography is traditional, rather than a development of the biographer's own thesis. The narrative details how a Long Island dentist's son became an expatriate at age 18 in 1929, traveled Europe and South America with the now-famous, and discovered "a magic place" in Morocco when he first went there with Aaron Copland in the early 1930s. Eventually he became a foreigner permanently settled there, refusing to leave. His musical compositions are now hard to obtain, but his fiction (including The Sheltering Sky, 1949) has recently become available again. This biography is readable, authoritative, and important. Graduate, undergraduate, and public libraries should have it on their shelves. An extensive bibliography and notes extend the book's usefulness. -Q. Grigg, Hamline University