Books: Fragments of a Gentle Despair

A LITTLE ORIGINAL SIN: THE LIFE AND WORK OF JANE BOWLES by Millicent Dillon; Holt, Rinehart & Winston; 464 pages; $18.95

When Jane Bowles was just turning 20, she wrote a childhood friend: "Life suddenly seems as short as a pistol shot." She must have meant the good parts. The achievements of her 56 years—a funny, excruciating novel, Two Serious Ladies, a haunted, talky play, In the Summer House, and a handful of short stories—were chiefly completed before she was 30. These bits and fragments of rather gentle despair, jagged as broken glass, brilliant...

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