Paul Bowles, Theatre Composer and Author, Dead at 88

News   Paul Bowles, Theatre Composer and Author, Dead at 88 Paul Bowles, the author and composer who wrote "The Sheltering Sky" and collaborated with the likes of Tennessee Williams, died in a Tangier hospital on Nov. 18. Bowles had been hospitalized there since Nov. 7 when he suffered a heart attack at his home in Morocco.

Paul Bowles, the author and composer who wrote "The Sheltering Sky" and collaborated with the likes of Tennessee Williams, died in a Tangier hospital on Nov. 18. Bowles had been hospitalized there since Nov. 7 when he suffered a heart attack at his home in Morocco.

Born in Jamaica, Queens, Paul Bowles learned to read and write before he was five and was a published poet before he turned 18. After briefly attending the University of Virginia, he left school and moved to Paris where he met Jean Cocteau, Andre Gide and Gertrude Stein.

On his return to the United States, Bowles began studying composition with Virgil Thompson and Aaron Copland and, in the early '30s, took the advice of friends --including Gertrude Stein -- and moved to Morocco where he shared a house with Copland for several years.

During the late '30s in New York City, Bowles wrote musical scores for the plays of dramatists William Saroyan and Tennessee Williams among others, as well as Orson Welles' Federal Theatre Project.

During this period he met Jane Auer. Their relationship and marriage -- he was bi-sexual and she was a lesbian -- was a model of sorts for those living outside the mainstream. In fact, throughout his life Bowles explored themes of isolation, individualism and the pursuit of gratification according to his own moral code. It was after editing Jane Bowles' first book, "Two Serious Ladies," that Paul Bowles discovered his literary calling.

While living in New York, Bowles pursued literature while always staying close to the world of music -- he and Jane once shared a house with composer Benjamin Britten, among others and he continued to write scores for plays -- including, most famously, Tennessee Williams' The Glass Menagerie. He also collaborated with Williams on the song fragments, Blue Mountain Ballads.

The projects he rejected are as famous as the ones he took on. Asked by producer Lawrence Langner to pen the score to a show which became Oklahoma! he declined, and later turned down an offer to write the music for Jerome Robbins' ballet Fancy Free. Leonard Bernstein eventually got the job.

Bowles' other books include "Days: Tangier Journal: 1987 - 1989, " "Let It Come Down," "The Delicate Prey and Other Stories" and "The Spider's House," among others.

He also translated Jean-Paul Sartre's play No Exit into English.

The songwriters' society, ASCAP, told Playbill On-Line that Bowles has been a composer member for many years and that his works are represented by a number of music publishers including G. Schirmer, Mercury Press and Theodore Presser.

Bowles' wife, Jane, died in 1973. They had no children.

-- By Murdoch McBride