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If the short story "garden" will not enchanten you you probably are in desperate need of some of that moroccon majoun.
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Bowles immersion into the culture of North Africa has produced some of the most interesting literature. This scant collection of four stories is an attractive little book of inconsequential but readable tales. Just as Bowles studied and collected Moroccan music as a key into the North African mindset so here he studies kif as another kind of key, one that gives him direct access into the North African subconscious. Bowles sets forth in the introduction that these tales are put together making use of associations made while he was under the kif influence. ....the best parts to my ears are the hermetic sayings overheard by kif smokers. "The eye wants to sleep but the head is no mattress", "The earth trembles and the sky is afraid, and the two eyes are not brothers", "A pipe of kif before breakfast gives a man the strength of one hundred camels in the courtyard".
The folk simplicity of these tales is very appealing. Later Bowles will cover this terrain again when he works with Mohammed Mrabet transcripting that Moroccans oral tales. An excellent book by Mrabet/Bowles is M'Hashish(which means full of hashish). Happy happy reading.
Each of his heroes is a kif smoker, and each finds it to be a useful and integral part of his life. Whether dealing with difficult neighbors in "A Friend of the World" or avoiding the cops in "He of the Assembly," smokers have a definite edge in Bowles' Morocco. But this is no simple paean--the stupid everyday troubles that also spring from kif are presented vividly and humorously (the soldier who loses his gun in "The Wind at Beni Midar" perfectly captures the zenith and nadir of chronic use). Short but satisfying, "A Hundred Camels in the Courtyard" makes an excellent introduction to Paul Bowles' work.
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I started out by nestling with the book into our oversized, down-filled sofa - and ended up traveling through one of the best reads of my life. Several times, I startled my husband with cries of "No kidding...Wow...I didn't know that...Ohmigod..." as I discovered new places in the hearts of my favorite authors. And delved into the lives of others I knew little about.
Literary Trips probes into the past, yet is formatted for the present. We're all used to reading in chunks now - short, self-contained sections that are complete, independent modules. And this book is totally "today" in that respect. Each chapter, written by a different person, is a complete story - gift-wrapped with its own special signature. Each has its own flavor, its own style, its own finds. Every writer has unearthed amusing tidbits and lively tales that add richness and depth to well researched and beautifully written prose.
The book is also an excellent travel guide for following in those famous footsteps. Each module contains a practical reference section listing hotels and other stomping grounds of famous feet ("Literary Sites"; "Literary Sleeps"). Each section also describes how to get to those grounds and provides useful tips and background information.
My favorite parts are the little surprises throughout. For example, did you know that: §Hemingway dedicated his Nobel Prize for literature to the patron saint of the basilica in Santiago de Cuba? § Ian Fleming wrote the James Bond novels at Goldeneye, his home in Jamaica, and named 007 after the local author of a book on birds? §When Ayn Rand was writing Atlas Shrugged, which took 12 years, she didn't leave her apartment for an entire month?
Another of the book's delightful dimensions is a smattering of recipes that could form a menu for a literary memorial party. You could honor D.H. Lawrence with his dandelion wine; Hemingway with double daiquiris; Mistry with Dhansak; and Sinclair Lewis with his "Sinful Christmas Cookies".
I'm always looking for inspiration for my own writing, and Lit Trips provides it on many fronts. Much of it comes from seeing so many authors "under one cover" - an excellent way to compare styles, to link lives, to see how they made their magic. But I was no less inspired by the talent of the book's contributing writers.
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In many ways, Marbet's simple style reminded me of Richard Brautigan. But while Brautigan strives to be simple, Mrabet just does it as a matter of fact.
This debut novel (published when Mrabet was 25) certainly has the slightly rambling but totally captivating force that we expect from the oral tradition. The prose is utterly simple and almost child-like, but the deadpan tone merely underscores the brutal motivations and rather amoral goings-on in the novel. Fret not: There's sorcery, lust, bisexuality, violence and all sorts of other goodies in store.
Fans of Paul Bowles' short fiction, like A DISTANT EPISODE and PAGES FROM COLD POINT, will certainly know what I mean -- and will certainly not want to miss out on Mrabet. This man deserves to be a star.
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In 'Let It Come Down' we have a disillusioned young American escaping to Morocco and getting himself into all sorts of mischief. The characters he meets are bizarre yet most fascinating. It takes some 200+ pages, or two-thirds of the book, before the story takes any sort of direction. 'Let It Come Down' is touted as a thriller, and so you have some idea of what the last third of the book is about. If it wasn't for the author's ability to write fine prose with brilliant characterizations this book would be a dud. But instead it is a worthy read.
Bottom line: hardly the best from Paul Bowles, which means it is simply quite decent instead of excellent.
(But am I the only one nonplussed by the ending, unlike with "Sky" or "The Spider's House"?)
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