The Sheltering Sky

by Paul Bowles

OK, so apparently, overwrought names are a pet peeve of mine. I find this book so hard to like in the beginning. Aside from the main characters being uninteresting ("Ooh, I'm twentysomething & have disposable income unearned by me with which to kick around the post-war world!"), yet having these ridiculously made-up names, I have to say that I make the mistake of reading the book's preface first. After all, it comes at the beginning—before all the chapters & stuff—so, why not read it before beginning the text? I'll tell you why not (and my tip-off should have been that it is recorded as a "New Preface by the Author" on the cover). The guy GIVES THE ENDING AWAY!!??! At the BEGINNING of the book! Unbelieveable. This preface SO needs to be an afterword, it's not even funny.

WARNING: In the following paragraph, I will be ruining this book for you. I will also be ruining the movie Citizen Kane. Don't read this paragraph unless you want these stories spoiled for you! CONSIDER YOURSELF WARNED. So, Paul Bowles writes in the PREface, say in your most clueless voice, "I don't know why I thought it necessary to kill off my male protagonist..." You know what? Shut up! This reminds me of the time I decided to see the movie Citizen Kane as a young adult—having heard so much about it & wanting to really see for myself what it was about. Do you know that when you pick up the box for Citizen Kane at a video store, the back cover has a CLOSE-UP photo of the sled?? (Yes, with the word ROSEBUD on it.)

So I am bummed that I know what's coming as I read, but I'll be over it now. I also have to say that I think it's very funny that in this same notorious preface, Bowles reveals that he had a devil of a time getting The Sheltering Sky published as it was rejected numerous times for "not being a novel," and once it was published, he could not dissuade critics from the notion that it was for the most part an autobiography. Don't these two things alone mean a novel is not so well written??

Funny that the Classic Bitch rank attained by this book is as high as it is, what with all my complaining about it. So why do I like this book? The plot is whacked out! It takes some turns you can't fathom (true moreso of the 2nd half than the 1st), and I like stuff that doesn't necessarily come out the way it "should." After all, that is life exactly.