I had read through a good portion of The Sheltering Sky and then had to put it on hold for a bit. You can only renew books once in the San Diego city library system, and I’d already done so just before the Olympics (and before realizing that I’d turn into a complete couch potato for almost all of the renewal period).
Anyway. I finally completed it. And my final impression does not match my initial impression. A couple of chapters in, I liked it. But now, while I certainly don’t think it’s bad, I just couldn’t really get into it, particularly in the later chapters. I probably would have liked it better if I had a reason to care about the characters, but I found them to be pretty empty, and therefore thought, “okay, but so what?” more than once throughout the course of the novel.
Maybe that was deliberate. Maybe Paul Bowles wanted to draw more attention to the themes than to any of the characters themselves. If that’s the case, then he succeeded. In fact, there are places where I felt like I was being beaten over the head with those existential themes.
It’s actually a relatively quick read (all my breaks from it notwithstanding), and the writing style does suit the story rather well. From an objective standpoint, it’s a job well done on Bowles’s part, and I can see why it’s on the Modern Library’s top 100 list.
I still wouldn’t recommend it if you’re looking for an enjoyable read, though.