27. The Sheltering Sky by Paul Bowles (1949) 256 p.
This one took me a while to get through, largely because it was the final week of semester last week. I had a hell of a lot of assignments due, resulting in stress and tension. Maybe that’s why I didn’t like this book too much. Or maybe it’s just not good.
The Sheltering Sky is the story of three friends who go on an extended period of travelling through French Africa in the post-war period. Port Moresby, his wife Kit Moresby, and their friend Tunner are not particularly likeable characters (Kit and Port are both unfaithful to each other within the first few chapters), but neither are they unlikeable enough to be particularly interesting. They are also prone to periods of intense introspection, and thought patterns extensively explained via metaphor. This is unappealing enough to me already without Bowles’ habit of zealously rationing his paragraph breaks to about one per page.
In any case, the overall story is one of travel without appropriately assessing the dangers of the region; arrogant Americans blundering off into the desert without a second thought and badly hurting themselves as a result. The final fifty pages of the book were somewhat more interesting than the rest, since they deal with imprisonment, a favoured theme of mine – alas, not interesting enough to salvage the other two hundred pages of meandering philosophical passages.
I always feel frustrated whenever I read a classic of literature and fail to enjoy it. Am I somehow missing something? Am I not intelligent enough to appreciate it? Should I skulk off back to my Playstation and Doritos like the wretched teenage product of the public school system that I am?
…no. No, it’s the literary critics who are wrong.
The Sheltering Sky at The Book Depository