Sunday, March 21, 2010

The last Bowels movement

From my notes of July 25, 1980
Bowles told us he pays only $85 a month for his apartment, up from $35 a month when he first moved in 40-odd years ago. He told us about how a guy named PR stirred the waters of social Tangier by writing an article for Oui magazine several years ago in which he described how Bowles always instructed his driver to park the car with its wheels turned out for a quick getaway during parties at DH’s house. “It was true, of course, but you can’t go around saying such things,” said Bowles ... He has a beautiful apricot-colored canary he keeps in a cage in his study. It warbles constantly, no doubt helplessly incited by the musty fumes wafting in without cease from the living room, where in the course of a short half-hour Bowles has been known (M counted) to smoke seven and a half joints single-handedly. The canary was born in Bowles’ study, along with four siblings. Bowles’ consort, Mrabet, raises canaries in an apartment below, which he barters off for extortionate prices. …
From my notes of July 26, 1980
Two more Bowles stories:
1. Moroccans treat sex as an animal act [Bowles says]. They don’t romanticize it at all. There are no porn movies, even in Tangier, and until the last few years, there were not sexual graffiti—just airplanes, weapons and cars.
2. Sherifa, the witch [who was the Bowleses' maid], used to tell Bowles that she was a saint and a virgin (“Ana santa, ana bint”) and claimed she had papers to prove the latter. Bowles surmises that although her virginity paper was certainly not official, she may have obtained one to show the police in case they caught her outside after dark—any unaccompanied Muslim woman out at night is assumed to be a prostitute.
From my notes of July 28, 1980
Here’s what Bowles said today: The sand used in mixing concrete here has salt in it which accumulates moisture in damp weather and cause the concrete to crumble. It makes terrible houses, hot in summer, cool in winter … Once when he was in South America he got bitten by a spider. Two months later the bite was still there and very sore. So he went to a doctor in Guatemala who lanced a cone-shaped core from his ankle and showed it to him under the microscope. Inside were hundreds of tiny spiders … In the Yucatan the chickleteers (chicklet cutters) get bitten by a fly in the ear. I guess the fly lays its eggs in the ears. Because eventually the ears fall off, having been eaten away from inside the cartilage … In Msab, Algeria, the hand of Fatima is hung over the door whenever the husband is away from home. This is to protect the wife and children during his absence, but in effect it is a signal to the world that the husband is not home … Mrabet says that two hours after his mother gave birth she was back at work in the fields. No shilly shallying … Bowles once lived in the house Cortes built for Marija in Mexico. Some Americans had bought it and let out rooms … The people of Fez are disliked by the rest of Morocco. This is because at one point in the 17th century all the Jews in Fez were were forced to convert to Islam within 24 hours or lose their land. They kept their Jewish names but became Muslims. Now Fez is assumed by the rest of the country to be all Jewish, although in actuality the population is only about 5% Jewish. Muslim can’t forgive Jews for not being Muslims. They’ve lived side by side with the Muslims for so many years and still won’t see the light. Clearly they are devils. Anyway, Fezians are considered to be arrogant and snotty about their culture. A sidelight: Jew is the favorite imprecation to hurl at a donkey who won’t move … Bowles’ suggestions to me: Practice is everything. Try writing something you don’t like just to have the experience of exploring alternatives. Avoid first-person narratives …


A said...

Seems like you really enjoyed and respected your famous writing teacher, about whom you recorded all these fascinating details. That you were able to practice his advice and "avoid first person narratives" even in the sanctuary of your journal is impressive. (Some of us use diaries as a shameful dumping ground for personal blubberings.)

Mia said...

Oh, there are plenty of personal blubberings in that journal too. I just didn't post them here.