This original graphic novel is part biography, part literature adaptation. The biography will follow Jane’s life chronologically, and adapted works will be chosen to alternate with the main story in ways that lend insight to her complicated inner life. This book will mainly feature art from Beatrice Penco Sechi, and each adaptation of Jane’s work will feature a different guest artist, with a unifying color palette throughout.
Though mostly marginalized by a male-dominated cultural canon, Jane Bowles has been called “one of the finest modern writers” (John Ashberry) and “the most important writer of prose fiction” (Tennessee Williams). Jane’s life was as fantastic and bizarre as her writing. She drank more than she wrote, worried more than she worked, and had more disastrous love affairs than completed books. STRANGE WIT is a nonfiction graphic novel biography and adaptation of fictional works that addresses themes of representation, feminism, and queerness.
Jane grew up in New York, a strange and sarcastic child with a wild imagination and a pronounced limp. At age 10, her favorite game was to burn effigies of Calvin Coolidge. In her teen years, the late 1930’s, she moved to Greenwich Village and wrote a novel on the myth of Phaeton. Her liberal sexual adventures as an adult included men and women, and in the course of her life and travels she became a part of the famous Parisian lesbian bar scene, wooed heiresses, and fell in love with a woman in a Moroccan grain market. She was open about romantically preferring women, and had several long term partners, including Helvetia Perkins, a woman twice her age when they met, and Cherifa, the grain market vendor in Tangier, with whom she did not have a language in common. Upon meeting author and composer Paul Bowles, Jane remarked to a friend, “he is my enemy,” but almost immediately vacationed with him in Mexico, and married him a year later. She and Paul lived briefly in the now-famous February House, a communal living experiment which housed the artistic minds of W. H. Auden, Carson McCullers, Benjamin Britten, and Gypsy Rose Lee. They counted among their friends Orson Welles, Richard Wright, Allen Ginsberg, Gertrude Stein, Gore Vidal, and William Burroughs. While they remained married and devoted to one another for their entire lives, they openly had extramarital affairs with men and women and frequently maintained separate homes, neither situation seeming to decrease their love for one another.
After being sent to a Swiss sanatorium as a teen with an unusual diagnosis, tuberculosis of the knee, she developed obsessive behaviors of every variety, from all-consuming literary analysis to the paralyzing fear of making decisions. These obsessions would drive her to write her unique prose, intimate and telling stories about women navigating self-definition and the restrictions of their various cultures. These short stories took various forms, including a puppet play in which two sisters come to physical blows over a glass of milk, and a narrative of a tourist following a stranger to a darkened house where women drink tea and mock her.
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