1. Could you tell us the name of a book that you love, and why?
The name of the book is The Collected Works of Jane Bowles sometimes called My Sister’s Hand in Mine which contains the novella “Two Serious Ladies,” two short plays, and several short stories.
2. Where were you when you first read, or saw, or heard of this book?
I had heard of Paul Bowles before, but the first time I heard of Jane Bowles was at my thesis defense, where Sam Michel, Chris Bachelder, and Noy Holland all recommended I read it. Immediately following the defense, I went to Amherst Books and found this book, and it felt as though I had completed a necessary quest, though I hadn’t yet read it.
3. Did this book influence your own writing, thinking, sense of the world, or work?
This book gave me huge encouragement to write ridiculous things, but to remember to take all my ridiculousness seriously. I am a big fan of Donald Barthelme, but in recent years, I far more respect Jane Bowles and James Purdy, because they take the ridiculous seriously. Barthelme jokes, but Bowles and Purdy reach a deep psychology in the joke, and their characters suffer the joke, or contain the joke the whole length of the story. Reading Jane Bowles was a revelation to me, but the kind of revelation you feel you’ve already had, or always known. The conviction, cleverness and flair that she writes with, keeps me constantly surprised and thankful to be included in such a bizarre, but completely believable world. While reading this book, it felt like the book had deeply influenced me in the writing I wrote before reading this book. It was this backwards impossible influence, the same I felt when discovering Barthelme (after my friend found Sadness on the street where we lived). The Jane Bowles now feels like a bible of encouragement, an example of the best, weirdest writing. It has made me aim to write longer works, to get further into the consciousness of my characters, and to allow them to act out, and talk, talk, talk. It is a great feeling when you are reading the writing of someone you trust completely, and you have no idea where it is going.
4. Give us a line or excerpt from the text that intrigues, engages, mystifies, inspires, disgusts, or transforms you. Discuss…
“I probably shall,” said Miss Goering, “although it is against my entire code, but then, I have never even begun to use my code, although I judge everything by it.” Miss Goering looked a little morose after having said this and they drove on in silence until they reached their destination. —from “Two Serious Ladies”
Every page of this novella has a line that intrigues me, but this line is representative from the work, because it shows a character explaining the way their mind works, doing something without too much consideration, and having a quick change of mood. Bowles’s characters are amazing in that they do unexpected things, and we, the reader, get a privileged vantage point, we see each time their mood shifts, and the small reasons why, and we learn what big thing moves them, even when they are obscured from this truth.
5. Who did you send this book to, why?
I sent this book to a few people, one of them was the writer (and blogger) Alex Carnevale, whose writing contains all the absurdity of Bowles, and like Bowles, takes the absurdity seriously.
Bio: Rachel B. Glaser is a writer living in Western Massachusetts. Her first collection of stories, Pee On Water, was recently published by Publishing Genius Press. Minutes Books put out her poetry chapbook, Heroes Are So Long.