American Women Fiction Writers, 1900-1960 - Vol. 1

By Harold Bloom | Go to book overview
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JANE BOWLES

1917-1973

JANE BOWLES was born Jane Sidney Auer in New York City on February 22, 1917, the only child of Sidney Auer and Claire Stajer Auer.The family moved to Woodmere, Long Island, in 1927. After her father's death in 1930, Jane and her mother returned to New York City and Jane entered a public high school. In 1931 she enrolled at Stoneleigh, a private girls' school in Massachusetts.Six months later, she fell from a horse and broke her leg; she then developed tuberculosis of the knee and entered a clinic in Leysin, Switzerland.In 1934, Jane returned to New York and, in 1936, completed a novel, Le Phaeton Hypocrite, but all copies of the manuscript were soon lost. The following year, Jane met the composer and poet Paul Bowles, whom she married on February 21, 1938.

After a honeymoon trip to Central America and Paris, Jane began writing Two Serious Ladies, which was published in 1943. While some critics (and her husband) recognized her talent, the book was not a popular success. Jane continued to write, publishing " A Guatemalan Idyll" the same year; " A Day in the Open" and A Quarreling Pair in 1945; and " Plain Pleasures" in 1946. The first act of In the Summer House was published in 1947.

On a trip to Mexico with Paul in 1940, Jane had met Helvetia Perkins, with whom she had an intimate relationship. She would have other relationships with women, but her marriage with Bowles remained intact. After publishing In the Summer House, Jane again traveled with Paul, and in Tangier she fell passionately in love with Cherifa, a young peasant woman who would take a prominent role in the rest of Jane's life. Her work continued, with " Camp Cataract" completed in 1948, followed the next year by " A Stick of Green Candy," a story about the breakdown of her belief in the imaginative world. In late 1948, Jane met Tennessee Williams, who would become a lifelong friend.

In January 1952, Jane returned to New York to oversee the production and final rewriting of In the Summer House. Although critically praised, it did not attract a large audience and closed in less than two months. Jane returned to Morocco, and in February 1957 "A Stick of Green Candy" was published in Vogue. That same year, at age 40, Jane suffered a stroke. Many Europeans and Moroccans in Tangier believed that Cherifa had poisoned her, but the various speculations have never

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