This is a kind of split review of both the short story collection Plain Pleasures by the American writer Jane Bowles and other for the various extra material published in her collected works as notebooks and unpublished pieces. The opening story of this collection which is the title story starts with a very odd and curious scene in which a woman invites her neighbor over to eat roasted potatoes that she cooks in an impromptu fire in her backyard. I don’t think this predates barbeque grills, but it feels like a truly odd little scene, and of course it becomes more and more odd as the story goes. Other stories in the collection follow a lot of the same patterns, a curious moment turns into an even more curious larger moment down the line. There are also stories built from Jane Bowles’s travels with her husband Paul Bowles, in the Middle East, a setting he spent a lot more time writing upon.
There’s also the extra material published here, and as a catalog of addition writing, as it shows up in a collected works (which I am reading from) this material is of interest, but not particularly amounting to much on its own. This includes snippets of stories, character sketches (a kind of writing I’ve never enjoyed), and piecemeal work leftover from journals. Given the relatively small amount of writing that Bowles did publish in her life (this volume is not 500 pages all told), this material probably reflects what was already cut from a relatively small output in the first place. That said, I do appreciate it from a more scholarly viewpoint and certainly as a kind of completionist, which I unsurprisingly am.