2 August (1947): Jane Bowles to Paul Bowles

In a letter to her husband Paul Bowles, who had traveled to Morocco as his writing gained notoriety, Jane Bowles worries over the progress and sincerity of her work.

[Treetops, Merriebrooke Lane]
[Stamford, Connecticut]
[Early August, 1947]

Dearest Bupple,

I am happy to have an address at last, and I hope for your sake that you will decide not to go to Spain. I don’t think you will like it there as well as you do in Morocco and certainly I think Portugal would bore you in short order. I do not say this to be mean because actually I should prefer you in Portugal, letters there are very quick flying over and I imagine it is healthy. I should hate it however if you left a place you liked (just because you do always prefer to move on) and ended up with a lot more money spent, in a place that you didn’t find nearly as much fun…

It has been hard enough for me to get on with my novel here because of four or five tremendous stumbling blocks—none of them however due to the circumstance of my environment. (My novel is entirely in this laborious style.)

The more I get into it, which isn’t very far in pages but quite a bit further in thinking and consecutive work the more frightened I become at the isolated position I feel myself in vis-à-vis of all the writers whom I consider to be of any serious mind. Because I think there is no point in using the word talent any longer. Certainly Carson McCullers is as talented as Sartre or Simone de Beauvoir but she is not really a serious writer. I am serious but I am isolated and my experience is probably of no interest at this point to anyone. I am enclosing this article entitled “New Heroes” by Simone de Beauvoir, which I have cut out of Town and Country, at least a section of it…It is what I have been thinking at the bottom of my mind all this time and God knows it is difficult to write the way I do and yet think their way. This problem you will never have to face because you have always been a truly isolated person so that whatever you write will be good because it will be true which is not so in my case because my kind of isolation I think is an accident, and not inevitable…Not only is your isolation a positive and true one but when you do write from it you immediately receive recognition because what you write is in true relation to yourself which is always recognizable to the world outside. With me who knows? When you are capable only of a serious and ponderous approach to writing as I am—I should say solemn perhaps—it is almost more than one can bear to be continually doubting one’s sincerity which is tantamount to doubting one’s product. As I move along into this writing I think the part I mind the most is this doubt about my entire experience. This is far more important than feeling “out” of it and “isolated,” I suppose, but it also accentuates that guilt a thousand times. It is hard to explain this to you and in a sense it is probably really at bottom what this novel will be about if I can ever get it done!…

I flew down with Libby [Holman] (for a weekend) to Louisa Carpenter’s and Sister [Eugenia] Blackhead’s. The plane—Louisa’s mother’s it is—was wonderful and I loved every minute of the flight. I drank heavily on the weekend, played poker and did no work.

Louisa C. is the most sexually attractive woman in the whole world but I am alas not alone in thinking this…My swimming stroke is improving. I am reading Sons and Lovers as well as Kierkegaard. I wish you were here. I am more by myself than I have ever been since childhood. I am worried about Helvetia getting me down but otherwise O.K. except when the work is stale. I suppose both you and G. [Gordon Sager] have written novels already. I still think that it was a good idea for me not to go to Africa, don’t you? Because with other complications as well as inner ones I don’t think I could have got anything done. But then perhaps you are so disgusted with my slow pace that you don’t think what I do matters at this point…

I hope the books you sent me will arrive soon and your story. Please write.

Much Love 


P.S…Shall I forward all vaguely interesting mail? I think I had better read it first—if not personal—because it’s expensive to send airmail as you know.




From Out in the World: Selected Letters of Jane Bowles, 1935-1970. Edited by Millicent Dillon. Santa Barbara: Black Sparrow Press, 1985. 319 pp.



Though Jane Bowles never finished her second novel, you can read the Daily Beast’s review of her first, Two Serious Ladies, here.

This letter is also quoted in Chris Kraus’s 1997 novel I Love Dick, reviewed and excerpted here by Artnet Magazine.