Skip to main content

Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky - Always On My Mind




I have written several times about the influence on me of Paul Bowles' remarkable novel, The Sheltering Sky. This post perhaps explains best my fascination with the book.

Tonight I am thinking of two of my favorite passages, which I have quoted before. The first is this, which upon reading the first time, literally changed the way I thought about life:


"Death is always on the way, but the fact that you don't know when it will
arrive seems to take away from the finiteness of life. It's that terrible
precision that we hate so much. But because we don't know, we get to think
of life as an inexhaustible well. Yet everything happens a certain number of
times, and a very small number, really. How many more times will you
remember a certain afternoon of your childhood, some afternoon that's so
deeply a part of your being that you can't even conceive of your life
without it? Perhaps four or five times more. Perhaps not even. How many more
times will you watch the full moon rise? Perhaps twenty. And yet it all
seems limitless."



Photograph Copyright © 2010 Alexander Chow-Stuart.

The second is this, which I posted after a moonlight swim I made very early in the morning (perhaps 3am) on Sunday September 26 2010 (and posted to my blog the following day):


The impulse to swim at night always reminds me of Paul Bowles' magnificent novel, The Sheltering Sky - and in particular a passage where Kit finds herself, at night, looking into a garden at a wide pool, surrounded by graceful palm trunks:

"She stood staring at the calm dark surface of the water; straightaway she found it impossible to know whether she had thought of bathing just before or just after seeing the pool..."

Her swim becomes a revelation:

"She stepped out into the moonlight and waded slowly toward the center of the pool. Its floor was slippery with clay; in the middle the water came to her waist. As she immersed herself completely, the thought came to her: 'I shall never be hysterical again.' That kind of tension, that degree of caring about herself, she felt she would never attain them any more in her life."

From Paul Bowles' The Sheltering Sky


Debra Winger in Bernardo Bertolucci's film of The Sheltering Sky.

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

The High Tower Apartments and The Long Goodbye

This beautiful apartment complex in Los Angeles is called the Hightower or High Tower Complex (the High Tower name refers to the central elevator, I believe), and was designed in 1935-1936 by architect Carl Kay - and made famous in 1973 by my favorite film, Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye (see Why I Love Robert Altman's The Long Goodbye).


Although Altman used the building as Philip Marlowe's apartment in his somewhat post-modern Long Goodbye (the film plays with references to Old Hollywood and opens and closes with the song, Hooray For Hollywood), the building has another direct connection to Raymond Chandler.


It was apparently the inspiration for Chandler in his book, The High Window (the first Chandler novel I ever read), in which Chandler describes the residence of Philip Marlowe as being on the cliffs above High Tower Drive in a building with a fancy elevator tower. (Thanks to the Society of Architectural Historians Southern California Chapter webpage for that.) 


This ph…

Andrew Hale and Sade

On Thursday evening, we saw our longtime friend Andrew Hale perform with Sade at the HP Pavilion in San Jose, in one of the most beautifully conceived and produced concert performances I have ever seen.

Sade is a rare musician, in that she and the band only write, record and tour every eight to ten years, so that in a very real sense you can measure your life by her.

The band's music is always fresh and always newly conceived - for their previous album, Lovers Rock, they stripped everything down musically to a minimalist sound and banished the saxophone that had been so much a part of Sade's heavily soul- and jazz-influenced style.


The latest album, Soldier of Love, released in 2010, is one of the most tender, moving collections of songs yet, from the astonishingly beautiful Morning Bird, which features exquisite keyboards from Andrew, to the soulful, retro, return-of-the-sax melodies of In Another Time, and the deeply touching, reggae-influenced charm of Babyfather - a partic…

Wong Kar-Wai Compares In The Mood For Love to Hitchcock's Vertigo

Wong Kar-Wai's In The Mood For Love is an incomparable film, beautiful in the way music is beautiful. You can enjoy it for its narrative or you can enjoy favorite passages, over and over again. It is one of my go-to films, for reflection, meditation and sheer pleasure.

The quote below, provided by youmightfindyourself on Tumblr, is a fascinating allusion from Wong Kar-Wai, comparing In The Mood For Love to Vertigo. They are both unforgettable films.





Wong Kar-Wai states he was very influenced by Hitchcock’s Vertigo while making this film, and compares Tony Leung’s film character to James Stewart’s:

“The role of Tony in the film reminds me of Jimmy Stewart’s in Vertigo. There is a dark side to this character. I think it’s very interesting that most of the audience prefers to think that this is a very innocent relationship. These are the good guys, because their spouses are the first ones to be unfaithful and they refuse to be. Nobody sees any darkness in these characters – a…