Tuesday, June 21, 2005

Tea in the Sahara

I finished reading Paul Bowles's The Sheltering Sky over the weekend. Honestly, I was a bit disappointed with the book; I didn't like it very much.

Probably part of the reason was that I had just come off reading All the Pretty Horses, which I adored very much, and it just paled in comparison. But then a lot of it stems from the fact that I just wasn't very interested in the characters, the plot, or what Bowles had to say at all.

To be fair, there were a handful of highlights to be found on the pages, such as the legend of the three sisters having tea in the Sahara, which inspired Sting to write the eponymously-titled song for The Police. You'd probably be more familiar with John Mayer's (brilliant) cover of the song.

But like the oases in the desert that dominates the novel, the highlights come few and far between. In a way, it reminded me of Paolo Coehlo's The Alchemist, since both novels take place in Northern Africa, except that The Sheltering Sky is far darker and utterly devoid of optimism. It's a story about three Americans who set out on an epic journey to try to conquer the vast Sahara... and then losing very, very, very badly.

There's a lot of pseudo-existential stuff in the book, none of which was able to capture my imagination vividly enough for me to form any attachment to them. The experience may be different for other people.

Up next on my reading list is Nabokov's Lolita, which had been referred to in another song by The Police, Don't Stand So Close to Me. Incidentally, Sting had written another song about another one of my favorite books, Anne Rice's Interview with a Vampire, in Moon Over Bourbon Street.

Anyway, I suspect I am going to enjoy Nabokov much more so than Bowles. Tell you all about it in a couple of days!


Funnily enough I saw a DVD of the movie of the sheltering sky last weekend -- I didn't like that much either. In fact the last third was excrutiatingly boring. All the pretty horses is a wonderful and evocative book though.


I read an old interview of Bowles talking about the film, "The less said about the movie, the better."


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