Paul Bowles and his early mentors: a life in letters (1930-1943) to Gertrude Stein, Aaron Copland, and Virgil Thomson
Ohge, Christopher M.
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Paul Bowles and His Early Mentors presents soundly edited, contextually annotated, and mostly unpublished letters, notes, and postcards from Paul Bowles to Gertrude Stein, Aaron Copland, and Virgil Thomson. Influenced by the life-in-letters convention, it tells a story of Bowles's life from his letters to three of his principal mentors; it also serves as a rumination on Bowles's place among other writers in his generation and in the historical tradition of American expatriate writing. The sampling of letters accounts for Bowles's development as a writer by focusing on a period of time (1930 to 1943) when nevertheless he thought of himself primarily as a composer. Of the 140 letters contained in this collection, only 36 have been published. As a result it serves to strengthen the nexus between literaty, musical, and biographical studies of Bowles. The first three chapters consist of Bowles's early career, when his chief concerns were travel and artistic expression. This period constitutes the body of this edition, as it provides a thorough study of an important period in his life. Toward the end of the second chapter we see the emergence of Thomson as a stronger mentor than Stein and Copland. The third chapter has Bowles meeting his future wife Jane, and then their early adventures together. The concluding sections (Interim and Coda) are supplementary meditations: the Interim culminates with Bowles's settling in Tangier, and his literary success with The Sheltering Sky and The Delicate Prey and Other Stories; the Coda includes a sampling of letters to Thomson from 1955 to 1983. This volume contributes to Bowles scholarship by not only making available unpublished letters to a few prominent correspondents, but also by revealing some under-appreciated and undocumented details that will allow us to make judgments as to competing interpretations about Bowles's life and work. The essence of this edition is the arc of true friendship and the dynamics of mentorship, and the mutual appreciation among geniuses remains a force in the study of his letters.
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