Not Bowles best but even subpar Bowles is good.Bowles writes existential horror One turns to him to read about naivet and innocence crashing against an unyieldingly alien world It s not impossible to see what was later called Orientalism in his writing, though it s not exactly fair, either His real concern is not that other cultures are strange to us, inscrutable though that is there but that every culture, instead, papers over the true horror which is that existence itself is an awesome, unknowable, and horrifying mystery, a black chasm one is forced to confront when the shibboleths of innocent comfort are broken.It makes me think of the opening lines of Nabokov s memoir, Speak, Memory The cradle rocks above an abyss, and common sense tells us that our existence is but a brief crack of light between two eternities of darkness Although the two are identical twins, man, as a rule, views the prenatal abyss with calm than the one he is heading for at some forty five hundred heartbeats an hour This si the story of Day and Taylor, two middle class Americans on a leisurely travel through South America they have their own difficulties Taylor, a doctor, is much older then Day, and they are drifting apart neither of them are creatures of deep feeling or intellect who still see themselves protected from the world by money and common sense.Unbeknownst to them, though, they run into something else and so this seems like a typical Bowles set up But very soon it is clear he is vamping on his usual theme, pushing it in new directions Day and Taylor become entangled with a Canadian woman, and then with her estranged son, his too young mistress, his insecure friend, and the machinations of their lives, their various desires, and petty wants and needs.It is in exploring these three that Bowles does something unusual for him, making the inscrutable world into which the naive must crash explicable But this is also the book s fault One wants from Bowles the inscrutability the recognition that the universe is alien, indifferent if not inhospitable Instead, we get an extended riff on Soto, the son Luchita, the mistress and her son birthed when Luchita was but 12 Their desires are picayune, though and so the crashing of the two sets of couples is less about existential horror and about the operation of banality.Bowles uses some structural tricks to increase the tension, not letting the reader in on certain motivations and actual events for extended periods of time He also writes extended dream sequences These, however, cannot paper over the dullness of Soto, Luchita, and their friend if he was indeed after banality revealing the alien world to driven by the same greed that shapes Western society, just baldy put then he achieved it, but banality does not make for interesting reading.The book is listed at over 200 pages in this edition, but there is a great deal of padding, and it probably clocks in at under 200 even so, the middle section, the one that focused most intently on Soto and Luchita, drags Bowles can still write, dry and precise sentences, the flat affect implying entire worlds but the worlds he suggests are themselves uninteresting here.Once the two couples come together in earnest, the tension ratchets up, and the last quarter of the book sings The dream sequences that came before feel like dry runs for the drugged out sequences here, but these work well, and he writes about intoxication with both restraint and exactitude.The pay off is both typically Bowlesian, and also underwhelming The ending for both Day and Taylor are only implied horrific, yes, but in part because what happens is not clear at all There is the reversal, too, Soto thinking he had finally come out on top, his carefully protected life of doing nothing so that he had the time for whatever improvisations he desired culminating in his beating the world, only t find himself outmaneuvered, adrift.But the mechanics of it all are well, the word would be banal again Soto s motivations are greed, which are also the motivations, to varying extents, of his comrades The dark abyss that surrounds the brief crack of light that is life shows itself to be not terrifying at all, but mundane.Which, as implied, may be what Bowles was after, tacking against the existential and making the case that we are at the mercy of others others who are driven by the same impulses, but just applied to different ends, which we cannot fully know The banality had it s point, and Bowles made it palatable.The real horror, he seems to be suggesting, is that there is no horror at all it is worth than nothingness, worse than the abyss of darkness it is that little men with cramped motivations make up the entirety of existence. I read this about ten years ago and it remains my favorite novel Let It Come Down, also by Bowles, is also in my top five It is considered a lesser piece of writing by critics of Bowles, and stands firmly in the shadow of what many consider to be his masterpiece, The Sheltering Sky While that important work is fine, there is something about this so called minor novel that really struck a chord It reminds me of something by Patricia Highsmith, in that it s plotted well and throughout its characters are harried, dislocated, always a moment away from making a wrong decision The ending stayed with me for days and days Graham Greene used to call some of his novels entertainments because he saw them as less serious works and wanted to make a distinction between, say, what he was trying to accomplish in The Power and the Glory versus Our Man in Havana I think, too, Bowles saw Up Above the World in a similar light compared to his other works But I find the novel beautiful and mysterious, and it s the one I cherish above all others. On The Terrace Of An Elaborate Hilltop Apartment Overlooking A Central American Capital, Four People Sit Making Polite Conversation The American Couple An Elderly Physician And His Young Wife Are Tourists Their Host, Whom They Have Just Met, Is A Young Man Of Striking Good Looks And Charm The Girl, His Mistress, Is Very Young And Very Beautiful Sitting There, Watching The Sunset, The Slades Seem To Be Enjoying The Sort Of Fortunate Chance Encounter That Travelers Cherish But Amid The Civilities And Small Talk, The Host S Casual Remark To The American Woman Proves Prophetic It S Not Exactly What You Think Masterfully With The Poetic Control That Has Always Characterized His Work Paul Bowles Leads The Reader Beneath The Surface Of Hospitality And Luxury Into A Tortuous Maze Of Human Relationships And Shifting Moods, Until What Seems At First A Merely Casual Encounter Is Seen To Be One Rooted In Viciousness And Horror At some point in the night she had a dream Or was it possible that she was partially awake, and was only remembering a dream Do you know those greatest hits collection a popular band will put out late in their career There will be a new hit shoehorned into the track listing A familiar yet joyless sound flea backs on when something had to be said I don t buy greatest hits at all But those tearful youthful Christmases when your specific requests for a GOOD David Bowie album are ignored Those times The Sheltering Sky loses its footing I didn t even like that one that much and I missed it An elderly American doctor escorts his wife to compromise in tourist plans If you want to stay we will move on tonight His face is lined in betrayals Why didn t you preread my mind, woman She is younger because he is older She is good because he is not If he is around she could not mind any situation if he is against it Mrs Slade reminded me of children who behave younger when they are with their parents Capable of if it is the only option Hers is the dreaded right thing personality vacuum Save me from people who insist on their right thing if YOU are the one making the sacrifices The world alone takes on a dusty settled landscape in her brain Sinister thoughts, haunting faces of other people It is the No one knows anyone else if other people don t feel EXACTLY as I feel EXACTLY when I feel like it The Sheltering Sky again Dr Slade would blow away in the wind I have less to say about him than his wife He decided what name she had to go by and she let him So she could hold it against him later I guess They suck that much The Spider s House feels the estrangement too The void sky deafens you You want what you can t have, when you have it you don t want it Anything to relieve the buried alive of self and other people Right or wrong is wrong The gut feeling snake pit is the inescapable, the only life I thought Bowles knew that and now he threw it away Slade machinations Slade helplessness I don t care what happens to them Let it Come Down isn t left out of the tracing Fat tourists bleed into your space, fake smiles of the locals consume you Go to their houses of glass, fur and leather You re the faceless legs of the servants You re the doll in playtime How did it become their world all the time I believe in the monster s world I believed in it like some big bang out of people shit atmospherics in Bowles short stories Background is same color as the drapes This time it is a young and handsome man His father has a bottomless checkbook The strings attached chafe the big little rich boy so he keeps a bland yes man around The yes man calls him Baby for some reason I thought this was the creepiest part of the book His sex mirrors for his teenage mistress wasn t as bad as that Grove Vero s tape recorder for rehearsed sex plans for the teenager was pretty creepy too I want some indefinable domination outcome and you had better give it to me, dammit I wished I wasn t reading the book at all long before then, though What was in Up Above the World that wasn t in one of his other three novels Something for money, I guess There s no conviction A shit flows with no wind I wish I hadn t read this one Maybe I should believe in it I didn t stop reading when I was bored from the first few pages. Paul Bowles is fantastic at turning a seemingly banal travel story into something of terror This book and Sheltering Sky are both prime examples.This time around a husband and wife are travelling somewhere in Central America when they meet a young expat who offers them kindness and alcohol and a place to stay It seems like a fortuituous meeting for the tourists, but then the husband and wife keep experiences bouts of sickness that include amnesia as a side effect The shift in tone is really surprising and so well done. Bowles desribes this as his attempt to write a thriller or a Graham Greene type entertainment , well the results are absolutely freaky, but delivered so starkly and dispassionately that its absolutely chilling Apparently rejected by a publisher on grounds of being nihilistic , another interesting note is that the film rights were sold to this but no one every did anything with it, sad because I can see either Bu uel, Polanski,Orson Welles, or even David Lynch making a killer film out of this. This imperfect book represents a wish to choose works by authors completely unknown to me Paul Bowles world is possibly the literary equivalent of a Hopper painting The lives depicted are as lonely as a Hopper character staring into the mid distance from a road side inn Written in 1966, this work is the possible hinterland for a Hopper character, a dark hallucigenic world in which two rootless middle class drifters appear to wander into a nightmare through simple lack of direction, and apathy Dr Slade is the 67 year old husband of a much younger woman, Day short for Desiree whom we catch as they board a freighter to an unknown South American destination The fetid damp atmosphere of the tropical place they find themselves in establishes a Conradian exile from which we fear they may not return The sweat of the jungle is replicated in the sweat of the LSD with which they are involuntarily injected It is a world that sucks them in and only spits one of them out More I cannot say without ruining the plot The language and dialogue is measured and the darkness and oppression ouses Dr Slade s drugged state is described thus There is a mistake about the time He in a house, caught in the body of a man who is being kept in bed People come and bother him, go away Doors are opened and shut It is daytime it is night Sometimes he is impaled on the wind as he rushes through space There are long periods when he is imprisoned in a muddy submarine world, aware of the room beyond the bed, knowing that time is creeping past, but able only to lie there without motion, clinging mollusk like to the underside of the consciousness until someone comes and touches him, and once again changes everything. Paul Bowles characters are refreshingly edgy In our own shabby moment, when American authors are inflicted with a grim, Rotarian niceness encouraging all to volunteer at animal shelters, recycle , and make milk shakes for our neighbors and whatnot Paul Bowles is like a welcome antichrist. , Paul Bowles 1910 1999 The Sheltering Sky , Bernardo Bertolucci Up above the world, The Sheltering Sky , 1966 ,. A noir mystery meets existential horror story wrapped up in a Central American fever dream.
Jane Bowles He moved to Tangiers permanently in 1947, with Auer following him there in 1948 There they became fixtures of the American and European expatriate scene, their visitors including Truman Capote, Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal Bowles continued to live in Tangiers after the death of his wife in 1973.Bowles died of heart failure in Tangier on November 18, 1999 His ashes were interred near the graves of his parents and grandparents in Lakemont, New York.
- 224 pages
- Up Above the World: A Novel
- Paul Bowles
- 09 April 2018 Paul Bowles