This collection over all is all the published and unpublished works of Jane Bowles. I previously read and reviewed the short stories earlier this year. The remaining texts are a novel Two Serious Ladies and a play In the Summer House. Both are solid, and curious, and weird, and while I agree with some of the reviews I found of each, I am not sure I loved either of them (or the short stories either for that matter).
Two Serious Ladies
A strangely structured novel that reminds me a lot of the first two entries into the Lucia and Mapp collection from the British writer EF Benson. We meet first Christina Goering, a young woman of New York, trying to figure out the world around her. She falls for a young man named Arnold and follows him home and has a bizarre (but tame) encounter at his apartment that he shares with his parents.
At the end of this first short section (about 1/4 of the novel) we follow Christina to a party where she sees an acquaintance, Edith Copperfield. From here we follow Mr and Mrs Copperfield on a trip down south to Panama.
We close the novel with a long section at the end, back in New York where there’s some but not a lot of interaction back on the scene.
Structure aside, I didn’t find this novel all that compelling but I also didn’t dislike it either. It’s funny and weird, and reminds me a lot of other writers to come, but it feels like one of those novels that is influential more so than enjoyable.
In the Summer House
There’s a long review of this play on Goodreads that I more or less found more interesting than the play itself. Part of what it talks about it is how the music (written and performed by Jane Bowles’s husband Paul — famous as both a writer and musician) deeply changed and affected how we understand this play in performance. And all this may be true and all, it’s hard to gauge this from reading alone.
The thing that really does stand out in this play is the way in which conversations happen. This isn’t a repartee kind of play. Instead, we find that often there is a dominant speaker in a scene and then a undominant speaker. It looks like huge chunks of text followed by a one or two sentence reply. However, when you analyze this through content, you notice that the person doing all the talking clearly wants or needs something from the person barely responding (say a mother exerting control over a teenage daughter, but the daughter isn’t allowing). The effect then is like someone posting tons and tons of emotion-filled comments responded to, essentially, with a “k”. That’s not boring!
But the play itself I didn’t find all that compelling when I was reading it. It could be really fascinating to be performed, but it’s not a closet drama kind of deal, I would say.