Thursday, November 18, 2010

Carolyn Recently Finished {The Sheltering Sky}:

The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles {1949} is one of the best books I have read in awhile. I couldn't put it down -well, except for those 2 weeks when I was being lazy about everything. There's simply so much to discuss about the characters and the setting {I'm convinced they are all metaphors for something or other}, but I don't want to give too much away.

Essentially, this book follows three characters as they explore Algeria & it's desert. The two main characters -Port & Kit - are married, but their marriage is strained. It seemed to me that this was because of Kit's anxiety about everything -making her keep her thoughts to herself, which pushed Port further from her because he wanted to talk about the meaning of everything and all manner of existential malarkey. The third character Tunner was probably my favorite, or at least the one I related to the most/provided comic relief. He was a third wheel, a tag-along - a friend from back home who took a passing comment of: "you should totally come with us!" as something to seriously consider. Kit relies on Tunner a bit, in my opinion, for emotional attachment or support that she felt she couldn't get from Port. Their adventures start by seeking a location that was untouched by WWII -why Northern Africa, I'm not sure since it doesn't really fit the bill - and then being disburbed or curious or humored by the lack of creature comforts available in these poor, remote desert towns in the Sahara.

After unfortunate meetings with some French colonizers and a mother-son duo of English travel writers and an illness gone wrong the story takes an interesting turn -things I never thought would happen did and this is where I'll keep mum about the details and where I would be more than happy to discuss them with anyone who has read the book or in a little bit after someone else finishes. Kit finds herself alone & I don't think she quite knows what to do with herself -to say she goes off the deep end is an understatement!

Usually, I don't care for books with unresolved endings, but this one is beyond perfect. It fits so well & I almost didn't want to hear more towards the end because I was satisfied with what I thought the characters had learned.

The writing is absolutely wonderful. Not too flowery, but just enough to perfectly describe the landscape. I also appreciated the inclusion of French & Arabic in the dialogue -trying to be authentic & less of an imposition of Western values on another culture (which is a sub-theme of the story, so the writing fits in perfectly).

About the Author

Paul Bowles was born in New York City in 1910. He was educated at the University of Virginia & studied music with Aaron Copland. The Sheltering Sky was his first publication - he first visited Northern Africa in 1931. He eventually moved to Tangier, Morocco with his wife, Jane, is 1947. He stayed here until his death in 1999. He is usually put into the category of Beatnik writers, such as Ginsburg, Kerouac and Burroughs.

Favorite Quotes from Selection
  • "Under his gaze she felt like a badly behaved child. 'Pardon, monsieur,' she said, trying to bend out of the way in order to avoid the growing pressure from behind. It was useless; she was impelled forward in spite of all her efforts, and staggering over the prostrate forms and the piles of objects, she moved into the middle of the car. The train lurched into motion. She glanced around a little fearfully. The idea occurred to her that these were Moslems, and that the odor of alcohol on her breath would scandalize them almost as much as if she were suddenly to remove all her clothing." {page 76}
  • "'Why don't you extend your good wishes to all humanity, while you're at it?' she demanded. 'Humanity?' cried Port. 'What's that? Who is humanity? I'll tell you. Humanity is everyone but one's self. So of what interest can it possibly be to anybody? 'Tunner said slowly: "Wait a minute. Wait a minute. I'd like to take issue with you on that. I'd say humanity is you, and that's just what makes it interesting.' 'Good, Tunner!' cried Kit.'Port was annoyed. 'What rot!' he snapped. 'You're never humanity; you're only your own poor hopelessly isolated self.' Kit tried to interrupt. He raised his voice and went on. 'I don't have to justify my existence by any such primitive means. The fact that I breathe is my justification. If humanity doesn't consider that a justification, it can do what it likes to me. I'm not going to carry a passport to existence around with me, to prove I have a right to be here! I'm here! I'm in the world! But my world's not humanity's world. It's the world as I see it.'" {page 89}
  • "Doubtless no complete sentences would pass between them because neither one would be able to understand enough of the other's language. He began trying to recall his English: 'Sir, I must to you, to pray that you will -' 'My dear sir, please I would make to you remark -' Then he remembered having heard that Americans did not speak English in any case, that they had a patois which only they could understand among themselves." {page 148}
  • "There was nothing to do but refuse to be sick, once one was this far away from the world" {page 176}
  • "Outside in the dust was the disorder of Africa, but for the first time without any visible sign of European influence, so that the scene had a purity which had been lacking in the other towns, an unexpected quality of being complete which dissipated the feeling of chaos." {page 181}
  • "Someone once had said to her that the sky hides the night behind it, shelters the person beneath from the horror that lies above." {page 306}
  • "There's something repulsive about an American without money in his pocket" {page 308}


The Sheltering Sky {1990} directed by Bernardo Bertolucci & starring Debra Winger & John Malkovich, among others. The film was nominated for Best Director of a Motion Picture for the 1991 Golden Globes. I personally have not seen this, but it is available instantly on Netflix {FYI}, so I'm thinking this weekend.

My North African travels {2009}

After graduating from college I planned on a month long adventure to Morocco, which I had been working my butt off to finance for a year or so. I would be going with Nate (visit music blog here). Unfortunately, certain terrible family situations required me to cut my trip a little short {which I don't regret in in the least - family comes first!}. Anyways, it was a wild adventure to say the least! I had never been to Africa or a Muslim country before and was a little nervous on how to dress/act/etc - some travel literature even suggested I pretend I was married because certain hotels or whatever would refuse admittance to non-married couples. This never occurred, but to say I was uncomfortable with the ogling & other various forms of visual sexual harassment is an understatement -& I was covered! I just wanted to list a few places we visited with some photos, but I would be more than happy to expand my thoughts further if anyone is thinking about taking a Morocco-land adventure -which I would totally recommend it's a beautiful country & the food is yummy & it's definitely an adventure!

We landed in Casablanca and stayed for a day. There was not much here besides the Hassan II Mosque. I found the city dirty & scary & totally overwhelming. Next we moved to Meknes, which was a lovely smaller city -very enjoyable. We also took a day trip from here to Volubilis - some extensive Roman ruins that are also a World Heritage Site. After a few days we moved on to Fes - my absolute least favorite place I have probably ever been! I have never been harassed more in my life - I was uncomfortable the entire time, but on the upside we stayed at the best hostel with the nicest host {so if you're going please ask me for more information because you shouldn't waste your time anywhere else in the city}. After way too long in Fes we traveled to Chefchaouen -probably my favorite or at least in my top two of places we visited. It is a very small mountain town and everything looks like little blue hobbit/iceberg houses! Next, we unexpectedly took a break in Spain {another country I had never been before} - we took the ferry over and made our way to Sevilla & spent 2 days. After Spain, we returned to Morocco & spent our last few days in Asilah - a gorgeous little fishing village, which is probably tied for the top two favorites spots with Chefchaouen. Oh, I should mention that going in & out of the country we caught the ferry & landed in Tangier -another place I would recommend avoiding, my 30 minutes were more than I could handle. We had plans to travel to Marrakech & Essaouira in the south, but - next time!!

The following photos are mine, so just let me know if you want to use them!








No comments:

Post a Comment

Related Posts with Thumbnails