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by Paul Bowles

An American literary cult figure, Paul Bowles established his legacy with the novel The Sheltering Sky. An immediate sensation, it became a fixture in American letters. Bowles then returned his energies to the short story -- the genre he preferred and soon mastered.

Bowles's short fiction is orchestral in composition and exacting in theme, marked by a unique, delicately spare style and a dark, rich, exotic mood, by turns chilling, ironic, and wry. In "Pastor Dowe at Tacaté," a Protestant missionary is sent to the far reaches of the globe -- a place, he discovers, where his God has no power. In "Call at Corazón," an American husband abandons his alcoholic wife on their honeymoon in a South American jungle. In "Allal," a boy's drug-induced metamorphosis into a deadly serpent leads to his violent death, but not before he feels the "joy" of sinking his fangs into human prey. Also gathered here are Bowles's most famous works, such as "The Delicate Prey," a grimly satisfying tale of vengeance, and "A Distant Episode," which Tennessee Williams proclaimed "a masterpiece of short fiction."

"Beauty and terror go wonderfully well together in [Bowles's] work," Madison Smartt Bell once said. Though sometimes shocking, Bowles's stories have a symmetry that is haunting and ultimately moral. Like Poe (whose stories Bowles's mother read to him at bedtime), Bowles had an instinctive adeptness with the nightmare vision. Joyce Carol Oates, in her introduction to Too Far from Home, writes that his characters are "at the mercy of buried wishes experienced as external fate." In these masterful stories, our deepest fears are manifest, tables are turned, and allegiances are tested. Fate is an inexorable element of Bowles's distant landscapes, and its psychological effects on his characters are rendered with penetrating accuracy. Like Hemingway, Bowles is famously unsentimental, a skilled craftsman of crystalline prose.

Download The Stories of Paul Bowles epub
ISBN: 0066212731
ISBN13: 978-0066212739
Category: Literature
Subcategory: Short Stories & Anthologies
Author: Paul Bowles
Language: English
Publisher: Ecco; 1st edition (October 2, 2001)
Pages: 672 pages
ePUB size: 1890 kb
FB2 size: 1604 kb
Rating: 4.1
Votes: 640
Other Formats: lrf lrf docx txt

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In a collection of stories this hefty--a sampling filling well over 600 pages and covering every phase of Bowles's long and prolific writing career--you'd expect to find more than your share of duds. But such is not the case here. In fact, there are hardly any stories in this volume that you could consider an out-and-out "dud."

Stephen King once wrote that the ultimate tale of terror is one in which the reader senses that any character, at any time, including the narrator, could die. Bowles seems to write with this dictum in mind. His stories are almost always ominous because of the sense that no one is invulnerable from the dark currents of violence that run just under the surface of life. Even when nothing especially horrific happens, the reader finds himself tense with expectation and breathing something like a sigh of relief. That most of these stories are set in exotic locales, difficult of access and strange of custom, where the "civilized" white, whether tourist or expatriate, is always an outsider only emphasizes what seems to me a constant in Bowles's outlook whether the story is set in Tangier or Tucson--that life is a state of affairs where we are never completely at home. We're always interlopers, just passing through; no matter how long we stay, we'll never be a native; we'll never truly belong.

And so misunderstandings abound--and some of these misinterpretations, whether of the people, the customs, or the landscape, all of them equally unfamiliar and mysterious, can be fatal.

Bowles writes a beautifully clear and straightforward prose that is nonetheless deft enough to express the subtlest psychological nuances. He is famously unsentimental, but not at all unfeeling. As he explains in one of the stories in this volume, emotions are precisely what we can't put into words. So Bowles confines himself to saying what can be said and leaves out the rest. And what can be said is more than enough to point the sensitive reader to all that must remain mute...except for sobs and screams.

Many of these stories end with a shock, but just as many end with a kind of existential "flatness" until you realize that the climax came some pages before and suddenly the shock reverberates inside you like a well-placed, time-delayed bomb.

Some of the later stories in this volume, written when Bowles was heading into his twilight years, seem almost to cross over into the realm of reminiscences and travel essays, others retellings of Middle Eastern fables, rather than proper short stories, but still they have the power to hold a reader's interest, bearing as they do in this volume, the cumulative weight of all the stories that came before them.

A collection of consistently disquieting stories, this volume brings together a generous sampling of the kind of dread far more terrifying than what can be found in any horror novel. Because in these stories, the source of the terror is all too real, all too much of the everyday world we live in.
The stories of Paul Bowles seem magical. Within the first few lines, he establishes complex characters and captivating situations with deftness that matches that of the greatest writers. While there is an overarching voice in the collection, each story offers something new and vibrant. Each story challenges the reader to think of the world as Bowles' diverse set of characters sees it, from an old man with family troubles to a young woman who struggles with solitude in a bustling city. What distinguishes these stories from those of writers who are adept at provoking thought are the pace at which they accomplish it. The stories move. They have plots that are as ingeniously crafted as his characters. There are no stock characters or situations, and you will find from the first story to the last that Paul Bowles has provided the paragon of the great short story. Last of all, and perhaps most importantly, his stories are enjoyable to read.
"A Distant Episode" and "The Delicate Prey" are pretty cool and gnarly stories. And "Pages From Cold Point" is interesting although it's hard to believe that gay sex was so unusual and volatile in a rural environment.

I read the first few stories closely and then became impatient at all the sly little bougie nuances piling up in each and just jumped to the quirky 'punchline' in each.

I can't fault the precision of the prose but I found the substance to be lacking. They were very lightweight and glossy. Infinite lace curtains ain't enough for me.

Many of the settings are exotic, rural South America and North Africa. But this is just knee-jerk bougie tourism if you ask me. Maybe this gave the bougie readers of the 50s a piquant frisson but it's dated and dull now.

I also found the 'punchline' to "The Hours After Noon" to be implausible, that the Monsieur Royer character would blunder into such a dangerous situation. I also felt toyed with by the author since he spent the bulk to the story obsessing on a separate dramatic tension.
Swift Summer
I return to Paul Bowles, having read him quite a while ago. He is still fascinating; his writing has a uniquely arid atmosphere that matches his Moroccan subject matter perfectly. There are aspects of Bowles that are hard to describe, but when you explore his writing, you will see. He is unique, mysterious and very fascinating.
There are some real perennial gems in this collection. Exotic locales, spare prose, unsentimental and yet heart felt, these are stories I've come back to time and time again.
Who am I to critique Paul Bowles? He elucidates his time and place with a clarity ranking up there with F Scott Fitzgerald. I thoroughly enjoyed these stories, a few of which I have previously read but by no means all. Definitely worth checking out.
Risky Strong Dromedary
I take no issue with Bowles's writing style -- it's well-developed; I know he was a serious and accomplished writer -- but his subjects are disquieting. That in itself wouldn't be a problem, but when *every* story is built around broken people, and with an undercurrent or overall atmosphere of evil and damage, I needed a break after 4 or 5 stories. I'll go back to them at some point, one at a time. There's enough real and present nastiness in the world -- I have no need of an extended wallow in it in the fiction I read. Maybe that means *I'm* broken. FWIW, I couldn't get enough of Mark Helprin's "The Pacific and Other Stories".
Quite good stories