Thursday, September 20, 2007

Modern Library's Top 100 Novels of the 20th Century Quest: #97

Title: The Sheltering Sky
Author: Paul Bowles
Judgin' the Book by Its Cover: The cover art stinks. Seriously, how am I supposed to read books with ugly cover art? I would never have picked this up if I saw it on a shelf at a bookstore.

Thoughts: After a quick detour from the reading list to read Everything is Illuminated (I know, I know, I should've read it ages ago), I got a little bogged down in this book. I've had a hard time processing it and deciding what I thought about it.

First off, this was an interesting read. It's a little strange-- although it was published in 1949, the first half of the book felt like something written in the late '20's about the post-WWI generation. It's a ponderous, serious study of humans in a foreign (and harsh) environment. One Amazon reviewer mentioned that each of the characters in the book is an example of a different Western approach to alien cultures. It's interesting to examine the book in this way and to see how each character's attitudes and prejudices influence not only their experience in the desert, but their fate.

However, the depictions of the North Africans are almost entirely negative, which makes the book difficult to enjoy. Even worse, the book perpetuates the myth that women secretly (or not so secretly) enjoy sexual violence, which is an idea that I have a major problem stomaching. These two things were huge obstacles to my enjoyment of the book. But it was thought-provoking, at least.

I'm finding this quest a difficult one-- it's tough to dive from one serious, hard-hitting novel right into the next. I'm taking a brief sabbatical (here's looking at you, K-Dub!) to read Animal, Vegetable, Miracle , which I've been dying to read ever since it came out-- I added it to my library waitlist months ago and it has only just now been ready. I'm really looking forward to that, especially since I've been trying to introduce more fresh, locally-grown, and plant-based food items into my diet (which mainly consists of pizza, Coke, and Greek takeout). I'll let you know how that goes. ;)

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