TWO SERIOUS LADIES by jane bowles


a lightning strike, a revelation. populated by persons afflicted — the two serious ladies of its title most so — by some hilarious strain of nutty. each too acquiring a certain kind of self-proclaimed but not entirely inaccurate sainthood. “saint” a title to use advisedly, but there is something of the seeker and holy fool about these characters. an air of privilege perfumes our ladies but their disavowal of it through the casual violation or even destruction of propriety makes it seem the transgressions and non sequiturs are actually the fastidious following of a much higher order. my edition has an awful cover and a great intro by lorna sage who reveals parenthetically that Christina Goering was “named after Jesus Christ and Hitler’s aviation minister”(!) …published in 1943 TWO SERIOUS LADIES can be thought of as a proto-beat novel — only in the sense that it too seems a response and protesting statement to the bourgeois strictures from which it arises — but otherwise a total sui generis. it’s madcap, movingly in touch with despair, structurally profound, and in the best sense foolishly holy.


(neither here nor there but for some reason while reading it i was frequently reminded of dead pan philosophy professor ray johnson.)

janes bowles’ nytimes obit

great article by stacey d’erasmo on jane bowles in OUT which has this bit:

“It’s possible,” Koestenbaum tells me, “that I worship Jane Bowles a little less than I did five or ten years ago. Self destructiveness isn’t as easily idealized as you get older.” It’s true. The loneliness of Bowles that seemed grand to me at 20 now seems like a question that was never answered.

find it at the library


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