Paul Bowles Letters

Porter's Morocco travel companion, Christopher, brought over Bernardo Bertolucci's Sheltering Sky (1990) last night, which featured some amazing costumes and the strangest pair of breasts (nudity theme today, it seems) ever caught on film. Paul Bowles wrote the book upon which it's based and a couple of his letters are up for auction on Ebay (bids start at $1,000).


PAUL BOWLES (1910-1999). Bowles was a writer and world traveler before he moved to Tangier permanently in 1947. He wrote The Sheltering Sky, Up Above the World and In the Red Room.

TLsS. 2pg. 8 ½” x 11”. December 8, 1981 and November 29, 1982. Tangier. Two typed letters signed “Paul Bowles” to Professor William Plumley. The first letter, dated December 8, 1981, states:

“I have your letter of the thirty-first of October, with its request that I contribute to your projected volume of graphic works by American writers. You mention that ‘rumor has it’ that I’ve tried my hand at line drawing. Everyone who has every made a doodle could be said to have done that. The only line drawing I’ve made is one which I did for a book of self-portraits published by Random House three or four years ago; it wasn’t particularly successful. Tennessee Williams and Gregory Corso have been painting for decades, and I can quite understand that they would respond to your call. I should like to do as much, but I have no idea how to begin. I have not trained my visual capacities over the years, having been too intent on that which is auditory. (In my writing I eschew visual description, doubtless for that reason.) If I discover that I’ve been able to make a few drawings, I shan’t hesitate to send them to you, execrable though they’ll surely be.”

The second missive, dated November 29, 1982, reads:

“Thank you for the news about Helen McDonald; I didn’t realize she was still in Key West, nor, of course, did I know that you were acquainted with her. I’m not sure what letters you refer to: letters Tennessee Williams has written to other writers, or letters others have written to him? I assume it’s the latter, since you mention the hope that he hasn’t burned them. But then you ask if I’ve kept letters from him. We’ve had no correspondence over the years; I’ve received perhaps eight letters from him in more than four decades, and what missives came from him were not in any way concerned with literature. But then, one doesn’t discuss books and writing in letters, or so it seems to me. I didn’t understand your mention of Sally Bowles, in which you say she’s on your list ‘to contact’. I suppose it would have to be through the good offices of Christopher Isherwood, who invented her for the Berlin Stories fifty years ago. He would tell you more than anyone about the original ‘Sally Bowles’, whose name was Jean Ross. I hope your work on Tennessee’s letters goes well.”

Both letters are in very fine condition with two mailing folds and the original envelopes.