I wasn’t aware that a new biography of Paul Bowles had just been published until I came across this New York Sun article by Carl Rollyson, quite by chance. (The article requires registration, but you can get a login/password combo over at Bugmenot.) The book in question is Paul Bowles: A Life, by Virginia Spencer Carr, and Rollyson seems to suggest that it’s an ‘authorized’ account, essentially part of Bowles’ myth-making machine.
Ms. Carr is no villain, except insofar as every biographer is. But I cannot help but think that the cagey Bowles employed Ms. Carr to command the field against other encroaching biographers. One of the first, Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno, provoked an angry Bowles to say in a letter that he should have arranged for the biographer’s murder when he came to investigate his subject’s life in Tangier.
Bowles had his violent side, once throwing a knife at his father and later breaking a man’s nose in Morocco. Ms. Carr reports these incidents but chooses not to go beyond Bowles’s own accounts of them. Like Bowles, she favors laconic declarative sentences.
Rollyson, then, quite prefers Christopher Sawyer-Laucanno’s An Invisible Spectator: A Biography of Paul Bowles. If you’re looking for a reality check about the Bowles legend from a Moroccan perspective, I would recommend you read Mohammed Choukri’s Paul Bowles: Le Reclus de Tanger. (I can’t find an English translation anywhere, although Amazon used to carry it not too long ago.)