Jane Bowles (1917–1973)
From Jane Bowles: Collected Writings
All this year we have been celebrating Jane Bowles’s centennial and for our latest Story of the Week selection we present “A Stick of Green Candy,” her last work of fiction.
Although she finished her first and only novel when she was twenty-four, Bowles subsequently had difficulty breaking through the writer’s block that plagued her for the rest of her life. Her inability to finish various attempts at a follow-up was exacerbated by the distractions of living in Tangier, where she and her husband Paul hosted the bohemian literati of the 1950s and 1960s: William S. Burroughs (who ended up staying in Morocco), Truman Capote, Jack Kerouac, Tennessee Williams, Virgil Thomson, Susan Sontag, and others. “They were famous among those who were famous,” Gore Vidal (another visitor) quipped.
For her last story, though, Bowles looked away from Morocco and back to her childhood on Long Island. “The games we played as children had nothing to do with toys,” her cousin later remembered. “The only props we ever needed were for the paper-doll games. The rest of the time, we lived in a world of imagination peopled by a succession of beloved characters.” In “A Stick of Green Candy,” a young girl finds this “world of imagination” shattered by the arrival of a strange boy, echoing how Jane as an adult was unable to sustain her forays into fiction.