The Stories of Paul Bowles

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9780066212739: The Stories of 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.

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About the Author:

Paul Bowles was born in 1910 and studied music with composer Aaron Copland before moving to Tangier, Morocco. A devastatingly imaginative observer of the West's encounter with the East, he is the author of four highly acclaimed novels: The Sheltering Sky, Let It Come Down, The Spider's House, and Up Above the World. In addition to being one of the most powerful postwar American novelists, Bowles was an acclaimed composer, a travel writer, a poet, a translator, and a short story writer. He died in Morocco in 1999.

From Publishers Weekly:

As elusive as his enigmatic fiction, which is epitomized by the 1949 autobiographical bestselling novel, The Sheltering Sky, Bowles (1910-2001) arguably has been venerated as much for being the mythical forerunner of the Beat Generation as for his considerable genius, both musical and literary. A darling of iconoclastic literati both here and abroad, he first became known as a composer, writing music for stage and screen. Only after his marriage to Jane Auer (herself soon to become a cultishly popular writer under the name Jane Bowles) in 1938 did he turn seriously to fiction. The exotic settings of the 62 stories collected in this landmark volume reflect the wanderings of nomadic Paul and Jane as, during the '30s and '40s, they flitted from Europe to Mexico, the Caribbean and the U.S. before finally settling in Tangiers in 1949. Over the years, Bowles's fascination with Western man's intrinsic decadence, laid bare in clashes with exotic cultures, became the signature motif of his existential fiction ("The Hours After Noon" and "Too Far from Home"). His oblique language and abrupt endings ("At Paso Rojo") are curiously confounding, and his tales are invariably charged with subterranean currents. Frankly incestuous and homosexual, "Pages from Cold Point" is almost certain to stir anew speculation about Bowles's sexual orientation. Earthy, violent and comfortable with corruption, these deeply affecting stories are distinguished by their lyrical rhythms and meticulous regard for language. The assemblage of this impressive collection marks a literary event of the highest order. (Oct.)Forecast: This definitive volume will be a must-have for all major libraries, and should attract much review attention and feature coverage. Bowles cofounded Antaeus magazine with Daniel Halpern in 1968, and soon afterward the magazine became the Ecco Press. This collection is being published to coincide with Ecco's 30th anniversary, and publisher Halpern will be available to discuss his longtime friendship with Bowles.

Copyright 2001 Cahners Business Information, Inc.

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