paul bowles in morocco, and the strange ways of his internet avatar, webmaster kenneth!

“The landscape became constantly more dramatic. For two hours the trail followed a valley that cut deeper and deeper into the rock walls as it went downward. Sometimes we drove along the bed of the stream for a half mile or so. At the date-palm level we came across small oases, cool and green, that filled the canyon floor from cliff to cliff. The lower we went, the higher the mountain walls above, and the sunlight seemed to be coming from farther away. When I was a child I used to imagine Persephone going along a similar road each year on her way down to Hades. A little like having found a back way out of the world. No house, no car, no human being all afternoon.” 



– from Paul Bowles’ “Journey Through Morocco”



what’s the frequency, Kenneth? 

I did have Bowles’ travel article “Journey Through Morocco” posted here, but then I received this e-mail, which I cannot stop laughing about:  

New York: January 17, 2009 dated January 17th, 2009, there is a word-for-word complete article that is copyright by the estate of Paul Bowles, and which you have republished without permission. The article must be removed immediately, or the copyright violation will be reported to and they will take appropriate actions.

Dear Mr. McLachlin:On your blog/site,

The terms of use of state emphatically that nothing may be used without permission.

Since you find the article so interesting, you may retain the link to the URL, however, you do not have permission to copy any of the text on your blog.

The webmaster

I guess it is kind of sad that Bowles’ estate is represented by someone who thinks the above e-mail — a little gem of rudeness and bolierplate legal hackery — is an appropriate first response to what was, after all, the posting of a very minor piece by Bowles.

But more than that, it is also very funny! 

I love that throwaway line at the end, which somehow assures us we are reading the words of a smirking and small-minded computer geek — and certainly no lover of Bowles’ writing: “Since you find the article so interesting, you may retain the link”…!

Even funnier is the fact that this article by Bowles is all over the Web — I figured I was doing a favour by directing readers to the eponymous Web page (which, to be honest, has lots of great content but looks like it was put together by someone with absolutely no design skills, much less any sense of aesthetics).

The funniest thing, though, is that the person who sent me this e-mail — the so-called “webmaster” — refers to himself as “Kenneth!”




Note to self: I simply must find the time to work up a study on the uses of ridiculous first names like “Kenneth” in the works of Paul Bowles. Certainly Martin Amis had a real go at the name “Keith” in London Fields


Webmaster Kenneth says I “do not have permission to copy any of the text” on my blog. Okay, Kenneth, the article is gone! But the last time I checked, the doctrine of fair use permits me to post a quotation of reasonable length, which is what I’ve done in this revised post.

Now does anyone honestly believe that Bowles’ estate has suffered any economic loss from a posting on Well, no, of course not, but that is not the relevant legal test under U.S. copyright law.  The relevant legal issue is that someone with the unlikely name of “Kenneth” says “No! Stop!” And never mind the fact — borne out time and again — that increasing an author’s exposure to the reading public drives sales up, but obviously webmaster Kenneth feels no ethical or even fiduciary duty to preserve, if not grow, the income stream which flows into Bowles’ estate.

A few more points: 

First, onewould have thought the e-mail would be worded a little more cordially — something along the lines of: “We are glad that you share our enthusiasm for the writings of Paul Bowles, but would request that you …”  

What really makes me laugh is the  line “since you find the article so interesting”, which sounds — to my ears, at least — like a sneering jibe directed against both me and the piece of writing by Bowles to which webmaster Kenneth refers. 

In addition, I didn’t even get the text from! As I write this I know that several copies of the article are out there, lurking in the digital fissures and crannies of cyberspace. available for all who have the moderate degree of acumen necessary to locate them… which presumably doesn’t include webmaster Kenneth (what does it take to become a webmaster these days? Don’t you at least have to master the Web — at least the rudimentary navigation of it?)… so kudos to the brave souls who have posted this article, far from the knowing ken of “Kenneth”, aka “The webmaster”!

Ironic that Bowles himself wrote so many stories about Americans who are just like — I’m sorry, I can’t help it — Kenneth! 


Leave a comment

No comments yet.

Comments RSS TrackBack Identifier URI

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s