How to start: The novel is strange, but so was the life of its author, and understanding that might help to appreciate the work Jane Bowles did. Francine Prose especially admires the narrative voice: “a voice that suggests the vocabulary and cadence of a highly educated, slightly batty, and neurotic child (…)” and later, “Jane Bowles’s touch is so sure, her language so well chosen and controlled, her artifice so dazzling (and so insouciantly ready to acknowledge itself as artificial) that we not only admire but are wholly convinced, or at least beguiled, by a passage of dialogue that we cannot imagine any normal human being speaking.” (From Reading Like a Writer, page 107-8, and 186-7.)
“Having a nice time?” the girl asked Miss Goering in a husky voice.
“Well,” said Miss Goering, “it wasn’t exactly in order to have a good time that I came out. I have more or less forced myself to, simply because I despise going out in the night-time alone and prefer not to leave my own house. However, it has come to such a point that I am forcing myself to make these little excursions –”
Miss Goering stopped because she actually did not know how she could go on and explain to this girl what she meant without talking a very long time indeed, and she realized that this would be impossible right at that moment, since the waiter was constantly walking back and forth between the bar and the young people’s booth.
“Anyway,” said Miss Goering, “I certainly think it does no harm to relax a bit and have a lovely time.”