My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles
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My Sister's Hand in Mine: The Collected Works of Jane Bowles

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4.18 of 5 stars 4.18  ·  rating details  ·  359 ratings  ·  48 reviews
Though she wrote only one novella, one short play, and fewer than a dozen short stories over a roughly twenty-year span from the early 1940s to the mid-1960s, Jane Bowles has long been regarded by critics as one of the premier stylists of her generation. Enlivened at unexpected moments by sexual exploration, mysticism, and flashes of wit alternately dry and hilarious, her...more
Paperback, 496 pages
Published September 19th 2005 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux (first published 1966)
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“Sister” Novels
131st out of 243 books — 97 voters
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Women Beats
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Sketchbook
Stylized off-tilt comedy. Makes you feel - cx, makes me feel - uncomfortable. Like sitting next to a beautiful crazy on a train or plane :

"Want some candy ?"
"No, thank you."
"I don't have any candy, but I will take my clothes off."

You can't move away becos there are no other seats.

Jane Bowles is lauded x Pinter, Ten Williams, Capote. And there's excess wonderfulnessy. What I find interesting is how she influenced Messrs. Edwards Albee and Gorey.

Jane and Libby Holman were great friends. Libby f...more
Nathanimal
I love this book so much I'm starting over with a pencil.
Jimmy
"The moment when they might have felt tenderness had passed, and secretly they both rejoiced"

A novel, a play, and a handful of short stories. So funny, so sad. I really loved her novel, which I reviewed separately on here. Her stories were good too. I really liked "Going to Massachusetts" and "A Stick of Green Candy". I wasn't crazy about the play, though it was pretty good.

I just read some of the other reviews on here and this description made me laugh: 'There are a lot of cases when the charac...more
Dragonfly
I was hoping to give this collection more stars, but I have to be honest in that I just "liked it," not "really liked it." I appreciate Jane Bowles taking risks and going off the beaten path with her wacky characters, but in the end, I wasn't sure what I had gained. To be fair, I only read the novel "Two Serious Ladies" and the story "Camp Cataract" from this collection. Both are similar in style (very dialog-heavy with little internal reflections) and subject matter (peculiar women who don't pa...more
Walter
Her original sin was being a singular voice. As she commits the biggest sin you can as an artist: she treats the “immoral” in regards to social convention as being normal; which it is, was, and always will be; and writes about life and people, their heart, their mind, and their dreams, as it is, but as it can’t be; but not with the eye of cynic, but with the eye of a poet that has a brain. People say they like writers who “don’t judge”. People say lots of things that are nonsense. As by their pr...more
David Gallin-Parisi
Puzzling, stories about serious characters. Serious, meaning the characters' enjoyment flows from some place, some wish, or some spiritual-searching that I cannot locate. Deeply interested and involved, addressing grave and earnest states, the women in these stories choose paths toward uncertainty and unpredictable desires. Nomadic is another descriptor for Bowles' writing, never staying in one place too long. I want to give this a lower rating, but feel compelled to go back to Bowle's writing w...more
Ryan
Joy Williams writes the intro to this collection, and I can see why she reveres Bowles. The biting humor is similar, the sense of alienation, the way weird shit just happens to the protagonists. Both authors' plots are compilations of madcap episodes which, if they do add up, do so in a way that I sure as hell can't fully comprehend.

I only read Two Serious Ladies so far (which is why I bought the collected works in the first place), and I admire the risks Bowles took, but I got antsy two thirds...more
Simon A. Smith
This fell just short of 5 stars for me. It was a supremely enjoyable read. I tend to love writers who bring a lot of buoyancy and playfulness to their prose. The fact that Bowles took herself very seriously, makes these stories all the more sincere and inspired. "Two Serious Ladies" carries this collection, but there are definitely some hidden gems and you'd do well to pick this one up and give it a shot. If you are at all familiar with Joy Williams, she writes the introduction and states her re...more
Adam
A sui generis prose stylist that plunges you into a world where the rules are all made up by the writer a la Walser, Vian, or Bruno Shultz. But like them it reflects anxieties of our "real" world.
Jessica
A longtime favorite writer.
Jessica
After reading Jane Bowles' novella "Two Serious Ladies" I decided to go ahead and read her collected works. This is sort of a cheat because the first two hundred pages are that said novella so I was a third of the way done with the collection before I even started. The second third was a play "In The Summer House" and then a bunch of short stories, some of which were never completed but were found among her writings and included. You can't really tell they're not completed though since these are...more
Amy
Just finished the first book, "Two Serious Ladies." My first reaction was just that I was so surprised that it ended when it did. Christina Goering is our main lady and we are first introduced to her in juxtaposition with her more proper sister. Then as an independently wealthy adult, she moves into a house in the country with a woman and a male friend and continues to move further and further away from her beginnings to cities, slumming around with random men, etc. A long section is also spent...more
Carla
Finished the short story Two Serious Ladies this weekend for a book club. Very erratic and unique story. I found this story to be very autobiographical of what I would think of Jane Bowles life. These women kind of fluttered about forming attachments with complete strangers quickly and seemed to be a little needy. I would have liked them to be on a journey to discover themselves without having to merge with another but maybe that is just my personal preference although it is much harder to live...more
Kim Wyatt
I was really digging "Two Serious Ladies" and then it abruptly ended. I wanted more, but will have to go back and read it again. Synopsis: Two women of a certain age in a certain time unravel. No one is listening to them, or seeing them, and they strike out on their own, not knowing where they are going or how to get there. A strange and haunting story, it evokes a time when women had few choices and were branded as strange or hysterical if they didn't step in formation. And "Two Serious Ladies"...more
Tobias
"Two Serious Ladies" and "Camp Cataract" are pretty stunning, and the whole thing falls into the "like nothing I've read before" category.
Wendy
hmmm. i wanted to love this collection of her works. her writing is so involved with the relationships b/t people, especially women. the action lies b/t people, intriguing and unexpected responses to situations and her characters never do (act) what you think they will. that is where the greatness lies. but the reading can get a little tedious, which is what kept me from falling in love with her writings. and perhaps, reading paul bowles prior to jane bowles - as their styles/subject matter is/a...more
Donald Krieger
Jan 03, 2008 Donald Krieger rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: anyone who wants to understand my sensibilities.
Recommended to Donald by: David Schweitzer

How do I tell you about Jane Bowles writing ? Wife of Paul Bowles (strangest marriage ever!), her work either drives you crazy or you fall in love. There is no middle ground, I'm afraid. Her characters are quirky, odd beyond belief...her stories have odd twists and turns, yet it all rings true... If you are a fan of Paul Bowles you will find her work to be 180
degrees from his. Yet they somehow work together, as the marriage did somehow.

Truly a unique voice.
Karen
I read this book with my heart in my throat the entire time. The action in the stories is, overall, quite slow but there's an underlying sense of menace and violence at all times. I kept expecting everything to go completely to shit, and presume it did after the story ended. See how I think something happened after these pieces of fiction ended? That's what I'm saying. The edition I read has an intro by Truman Capote, which made it all the better.
Audra (Unabridged Chick)
Jan 02, 2010 Audra (Unabridged Chick) rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: fans of Doris Lessing and Djuna Barnes
Did I like this book? Maybe?

I couldn't stand reading her yet I couldn't stop. The writing is amazing: her characters are fascinating and repulsive; at times, I felt sympathetic toward them, even when they said or did horrifying things. At times I would say I hated this book, and then rave about it for ten minutes. I'm still not sure if I 'enjoyed' it, but I certainly was challenged.

I was reminded a bit of Doris Lessing and Djuna Barnes.
Carmen
Unbelievably excellent. Two Serious Ladies, Bowles' only novel, is surprising, funny, and gorgeous. Of the rest of Bowles' work in this book, "Camp Cataract" was a standout story for me - perfectly plotted with a gut-punch ending. Highly recommended.
aya
Sep 27, 2010 aya rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to aya by: Chris Jacobson
(still haven't read the play and a few of the short stories)

There is so much beauty, sadness, and humor in these works, especially Two Serious Ladies. Her strangeness is completely foreign yet totally relateable. I love the sense of fun being incorporated into what must be done, how one must live her life...what a strange and sad thing, yet powerful, that you must always look out for yourself first.
Ed
I was obsessed with ms. bowles for a while and got to go through some of their archives in Austin, specifically Jane's last journals from Morocco. I found a completely different version of Camp Cataract and notes about Cherifa and a picture of a sad and beautiful life. Also, the secodn section of Two Serious Ladies has been an inspiration to my life to this day. Such crippled talent.
S.
I discovered this book while living in Morocco, where some of the stories take place, and I am so glad I did. Some of the pieces are better than others but reading the whole package creates a certain impression. Very unique.
Kate Sweeney
Dec 08, 2007 Kate Sweeney rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Mamabeth, Jon
"She wore the look of certain fanatics who think of themselves as leaders without once having gained the respect of a single human being."
This is page one, describing a small child. This is how much this book rules.
Jen
I loved this collection. Jane is a fantastic writer, with wonderful sensibilities. I enjoyed every minute reading this book, and still think fondly of it ten years later. Highly recommended!
Jennifer
Nov 13, 2007 Jennifer rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Anyone who doesn't mind unraveling.
Whims are more than just fantasy. Imagine for one moment that you acted upon every thought, no matter how ridiculous or cruel, that popped into your head. This book documents that.
Erika Kleinman
Two Serious Ladies is probably my absolute favorite story ever written. I don't want to spoil it for anyone, so I will just say that I love it enough to read it yearly.
Kimley
Sadly, Jane is usually overshadowed by her more famous husband Paul Bowles (one of my favorite writers as well) but she is an amazing writer in her own right.
Alex Gleason
Difficult to understand the appeal of this writing, although I do believe that at some point in time this was considered rather smart.
Philip Bardach
Rereading Two Serious Ladies was more fun the second time around. However, I much prefer her short stories. They're swell.
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Born Jane Sydney Auer, Jane Bowles's total body of work consists of one novel, one play, and six short stories. Yet John Ashbery said of her: "It is to be hoped that she will be recognized for what she is: one of the finest modern writers of fiction in any language." Tennessee Williams called her the most underrated writer of fiction in American literature. During her lifetime and since her death...more
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Two Serious Ladies Plain Pleasures The Collected Works of Jane Bowles. Out in the World: Selected Letters, 1935-1970 Everything is Nice (VMC)

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“This did not in any way alter her intention of accomplishing her mission; on the contrary; it seemed to her all the more desperately important now that she was almost certain, in her innermost heart, that her trip was a failure. Her attitude was not an astonishing one, since like many others she conceived of her life as separate from herself; the road was laid out always a little ahead of her by scared hands, and she walked down it without a question. This road, which was her life, would go on existing after her death, even as her death existed while she still lived.” 2 likes
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