Book review for week 01

Book of the week is Paul Bowles´ The Sheltering Sky (1949).
I was a big Jack Kerouac reader back in College a few years ago, but oddly enough that was as far as I went regarding the Beat Generation.
Bowles was an American writer who lived in North Africa, and was friends with William Burroughs. Never got into Burroughs´ works, though, probably because once after I´d read that poem Howl by Allen Ginsberg I accidentally stumbled upon an odd less-known piece of his, about a carrot & the author´s own anatomy, which clearly made me decide to stick with JK´s less-risqué stuff.

The book is about three Americans traveling south from North Africa in the years following WWII. They chose Africa on the grounds that it was the one place left in the world that was not marred, or less marred, by the War.
There´s the young, well-to-do married couple in their early 30s now about a decade into their marriage and equally that far from newlywed bliss (so much that they actually sleep in separate rooms and barely talk to each other), and their younger friend.
No stranger to traveling and living abroad, they roam the world never settling down, always looking for something else, to be somewhere else… kind of on a quest after a meaning to their own lives and such.

The desert is the setting for the story and its antagonistic force at the same time; upon its fiery white-hot sands and poor villages the characters are tested time and again both by the natural hazards of the Sahara and their own views on life and themselves.
The vastness of the nigh-infinite blue sky is their only constant, their “shield” per se from the unknown dangers that lie beyond, or better yet, from their own fears and doubts, and ultimately from the darkness that dwells in their hearts.
…And they fail miserably. One of them dies, one gets lost from the pack, and the other suffers a severe breakdown.

If one were to use a single word to define the book, it most certainly would be “ominous”; there´s always the notion of something bad ahead, not unlike the thunderclaps before a storm, lurking behind every corner.
It´s a dark, brooding, introspective tale about the discovery of character and measure of mettle as fascination with the exotic shatters and melts under the scorching Saharan sun.

I was very surprised because I was not expecting to enjoy it this much, which I did. The book rocks! (Must´ve blitzed through its pages in what, three sittings tops…)
By the way, The Police based the lyrics to their Tea in the Sahara song (from the Synchronicity album) on a passage of the book.

PS: Will skip next week´s book review. About time to go back to the real world and read a periodical or two for a change.