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Paul Bowles: the Sheltering Sky/ Let It Come Down/ the Spider's House (Library of America) Hardcover – August 26, 2002

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Editorial Reviews

From Library Journal

Though mostly associated with Tangiers, Bowles was born in Queens, NY, so his works qualify for inclusion in the Library of America. The publisher claims these are the first annotated editions of Bowles's works available. Along with the novels volume, Stories includes "The Delicate Prey," "A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard," "The Time of Friendship," "Things Gone and Things Still Here," "Their Heads Are Green and Their Hands Are Blue," among many others.
Copyright 2002 Reed Business Information, Inc.

About the Author

Daniel Halpern, editor, is the editorial director of Ecco and has published several books of poems, including Something Shining.
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Product Details

  • Series: Library of America (Book 134)
  • Hardcover: 940 pages
  • Publisher: Library of America (August 26, 2002)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 1931082197
  • ISBN-13: 978-1931082198
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 1.3 x 8.3 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.2 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 5.0 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (12 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #205,672 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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By ewomack TOP 1000 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on October 21, 2002
Format: Hardcover
I couldn't be happier that the Library of America has released Paul Bowles' three best novels (he only wrote four) in one volume. Previously they were only available in not-so-easy to find small press editions. Hopefully this edition will make them readily available to a wider audience in volume and time.
The most striking thing about Bowles' work is its pace. It moves at a mesmerizing rate. The language is fairly simple but it plods along with a suspensful tension that never lets up even after a climatic moment. It is the kind of fiction to read next to a fountain in a courtyard.
Bowles' characters are almost always out of place, or are where they shouldn't be, or where they think they should be. They become engulfed by cultures that they don't understand not through stupidity or banality but often through the natural course of clashing cultures. Reading the books can give you a feeling of getting lost, and overcome with a feeling that you don't belong, or that you're delving into worlds you aren't prepared to delve into. This is the terror that underlies nearly all of his writing. They are cautionary tales, and they have become more relevant in the past few years since Bowles' death in 1999 (not highly publicized), and the rising relevance of Islam in and to the West.
Bowles is one of the first western writers of fiction that treats Islam equally to European society. Islam is not merely a backdrop in which his characters find fault or get ground up in (i.e., you never get the sense that Bowles is blaming the cultures themselves for the destruction of his characters, typically they are responsible, but it really isn't anybody's 'fault' per se). This is multicultural literature at its best, because it allows nastiness and goodness on all sides.
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Format: Hardcover
This is my first exposure to the writings of Paul Bowles. What a surprise! The three novels in this edition were written in the late 1940’s to mid 1950’s. His characters are not at all dated. His writing is clear, and uncluttered. In contrasted to his writing style, are his characters who complex, murky and often compelling. I read straight through from the Sheltering Sky to Let It Come Down to The Spider’s House. He is one of the most interesting 20th century American writers. The Library of America has done a wonderful service to readers by ensuring that Paul Bowles will remain in print.
The Sheltering Sky, the first of three novels in this edition, is short, only 250 pages long. It seems to be considered his defining novel. It is about a married couple, Kit, and Port, and their sojourn into the Sahara Desert. They are dishonest with each other about many things, their shaky marriage, and the danger of the trip they have embarked on, fidelity. They cannot take charge of anything, their lives, their marriage, their trip, and even their privacy. The decisions that they make exude with bad judgement. This is exposed early on, when Porter goes off for a walk alone the city. He encounters a stranger, Smail; Port walks off with this stranger, out of the city into the desert to meet and be entertained by a young girl, who he is told is “not a [prostitute] but will want to be paid. The characters do dangerous things. You sense their doom with them. And, like them, the reader is compelled to go on. I do not want to give too many plot details as it might spoil the pleasure of reading what I think is an overlooked 20th century classic.
Let It Come Down, is about a bank clerk seeking adventure in Tangier. Like the Sheltering Sky, there is no happy ending here.
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Format: Hardcover Verified Purchase
Let me start off by saying that I could never write an adequate review of these stories. I'm the farthest thing from a literary critic.

So let's start with the book itself:

I own a Kindle. It's a fantastic thing for travel, and I even gave it a 5-star review of its own. But when someone says "there's nothing like the physicality of a real book", this is the very embodiment of that statement.

The binding is marvelous and timeless. Underneath the unassuming dust jacket are boards covered in a well-textured cloth the color of damp sand. It has a bound bookmark. The thin, crinkly pages are quite literally biblical. I look forward to turning them not only to find out what happens next, but also to experience the tactile pleasure of those fine leaves.

I wish that all books were made similarly to this one. It is well worth the cost above any digital or paperback options.

As for the content? As I intimated, I'd feel insecure giving an analysis of Bowles' work. In fact, prior to this I've never read anything he's written!

I hope it will suffice to say that this is a page-turner, but not in the trivial way of The Davinci Code or The Wolf of Wall Street. It's not an "easy read" in that sense. It is, however, difficult to put down. I often found myself so engrossed that I didn't realize I'd been sitting in the same position long past the point of developing a crick in my neck and my legs having fallen asleep. I'd end up surprised by the time after coming up for air.

The flow of Bowles' prose is so natural that it's easy to drift along with it. At times I felt like I was watching a movie, or perhaps something more immersive like lucid dreaming. It has a very natural depth.
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