04 August 2010

Paul Bowles Life's Final Draft


image from here (asshole.org)

 Celebrating 100 years this year of Paul Bowles life.
easy to celebrate and impossible to cover & besides,  there is an entire site devoted to referencing and reverencing him and his work. When speaking with interviewer Daniel Halpren- Bowles declared 'the first draft is the final draft.' He followed this linear path thorough out his unquantifiable life.

Jane and Paul Bowles photographed by Cecil Beaton

This from his haunting novel Sheltering Sky: "Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don't know when it will arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It's that terrible precision that we hate so much. But because we don't know, we get to think of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all seems limitless."

movies, manuscripts, their lives and love for each other endured turbulence, liaisons, Jane's death.

 Bowles said the day his wife Jane died- "all the fun was over."

Luring many acolytes Bowles to Tangier- he was a connoisseur of people.Something Paul knew about-he called himself a "connoisseur of  odors. He was the "scent" that drew and scent is powerful. It lures. Something Paul knew about-he  said he collected incense and perfume. I imagine him as drawing people to him, collecting them just as he did his strange perfumes, incense, teas.  He "had 28 kinds of incense and knew them all blindfolded raw or burning. Then I mixed them and got some interesting results." He remembered a tea oil that he found one year. "One drop on a cigarette end and the whole house smelled of fresh hot tea. Very strong. Marvelous odor. Like mint Tea. I never found any again. The next year I came back looking for it all through the perfume soukhs of Fez and Marrakech. Never found any more. I smelled hundreds of bottles and they would say, this is it. But No."

Henry Ossawa Tanner.Street in Tangier, 1912. 
Smithsonian American Art Museum, Washington, D.C.

Paul Bowles never found that special tea oil again. It forever eluded him, but he never forgot it permeating scent.
Something very much like a Love that is Lost, Remembered for moment in perfect clarity, but never Regained, nor Forgotten.

Jane Sydney Auer
image here

He must have felt this strong marvelous odor much like he thought of Jane- never again.

a terrific site asshole here with interviews
an interview here written by Daniel Halpern
other resources-
Conversations with Paul Bowles,Paul Bowles and Gena Dagel Caponi
In Touch:The Letters of Paul Bowles, Paul Bowles, with Jeffrey Miller

 ( "the Cherifa Plant" is a plant Cherifa-Jane's Bowles Moroccan housekeeper and lover used-Bowles believed Cherifa used to control Jane.)

 read them



  1. Extravagant consolation in humane craftsmanship, top to bottom: subject, sources, conception, treatments, comment, compilation. Very fine.

  2. Wow - this is a terrific post, which made my day. I particularly enjoy the lines from "Sheltering Sky" about the "inexhaustible well" we sometimes think of our lifespan.

  3. Wow just about sums it up. AW

  4. if posts were to have an olfactory button, your post would have an eloquent heady fragrance that I would keep coming back to get a strong whiff.

  5. "Nothing quite so evocative as one's sense of smell, is there?"

    I've been remiss on investigating Bowles's life and work for years - this is much appreciated

    All best,


  6. Simply captivating. Loved Sheltering Sky and its author, always have. And now feel a yearning to revisit.

    Lovely in its annotated fragments and shared similarities on the impermanence of things - life, scents, memory.

    Exquisitely done, LA.

  7. Barima- I have enjoyed tramping round your blog today. Congrats on the book interview and I like your modesty on the inclusion, nicely done. Gaye

  8. Barima- and do delve into Bowles-his work, life and yes even music play like an opera.

  9. Perfume is a word evocative of so much beyond smell. Even so, I found the tea oil anecdote extremely heady. A great post, thank you.

  10. Rosie, I agree about the tea oil-I find his description of the search wonderful-almost as if he did not want to find it. it is the thrill of the hunt and the memory of the scent. Do you think he remembered it more headily than it really was? Gaye

  11. Gaye, I'm glad that you enjoyed my column. I will certainly educate myself on Bowles forthwith - your links are rather mandatory

    I'm perhaps the least known and established contributor to the Fashion Blogs book; it would have been unseemly to derive copious self-satisfaction from it

    All best,


  12. Wow!

    Love your blog!


  13. this post makes me think of one of Billy Baldwin's jewel box rooms: a perfectly set, perfectly balanced source of untold fascination

  14. The mention at The Library of America Reader's Almanac is absolutely beautiful. It sent chills up my spine; the work that you are doing here (and the exquisite collaborations that ensue) is the stuff that dreams are made of. Gaye, it is a privilege to be able to watch your art unfold into this sweet universe. A true privilege. Many thanks.

  15. Rfsp thanks much!

    Anon (7:51) that is about the nicest compliment ever. I have a thing for Billy Baldwin.



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