One could read this novel in many ways: as Paul Bowles' skewering of his own orientalist desires for Moroccan transhistorical "primitivism"; as a fictOne could read this novel in many ways: as Paul Bowles' skewering of his own orientalist desires for Moroccan transhistorical "primitivism"; as a fictionalised account of the beggining of the Moroccan revolution; as a far superior, more complex and far more critical reading of the "clash of civilizations" thesis; as a novel about a stupid American man pursuing a rather bratty American woman; as a novel about tourism and travel, to be read alongside Edward Said's Orientalism; as an attempt to understand Islam; as a parable satirizing liberal qualms about post-WWII third world nationalist movements, modernization and marxism.
I think it's possible to read it in all ways at once and to revel in the prose, the bite, the wit:
"it was too bad she had to have opinions; she had been so agreeable to begin with before she had started to express them. And then, the terrible truth was that neither she nor he was right. It would not help the Moslems or the Hindus or anyone else to go ahead, nor, even if it were possible, would it do them any good to stay as they were. It did not really matter whether they workshipped Allah or carburetors--they were lost in any case. In the end, it was his own preferences which concerned him. He would have liked to prolong the status quo because the decor that went with it suited his personal taste."
For all that, it fails as a political project; precisely because it's no good reading a white dude's self-absorbed account of white tourists during a revolution (or a white dude's "channelling" of an Arab youth). One ought to be reading the novels written by Moroccans that tell the story of these things.
This is how my friend Hugh described this book to me: In the first part of the book an American sailor misses his ship somewhere in Europe and has noThis is how my friend Hugh described this book to me: In the first part of the book an American sailor misses his ship somewhere in Europe and has no papers, so he gets deported and kicked out of a dozen countries, sent to jail, left at the border with a sandwich, all of these things taking place at a time when European nations had just begun to require people to have passports, so the officials are always incompetent and don't know how to deport him right. Finally he gets a job on a death ship and weird shit happens to him and it's kind of unreadable."
That's pretty much what happens. It's awesome. I can't believe I didn't discover B. Traven before now. ...more
moments in inferno blur virtuosically like cool for you or chelsea girls, but the further you get, the lazier she writes, and i guess i am just not domoments in inferno blur virtuosically like cool for you or chelsea girls, but the further you get, the lazier she writes, and i guess i am just not down with the name-dropping-ness of it all. new york. okay, poets. why are poets so great? -- but i saw eileen reading some of this and she gave me chills. ...more
This book annoys me. I'm midway through and I'm finding it so annoying that I can't finish it -- but I want to know what happens, and chiefly I want tThis book annoys me. I'm midway through and I'm finding it so annoying that I can't finish it -- but I want to know what happens, and chiefly I want to kvetch about it. So it must be doing something. I'm not a "fan" of Michael Cunningham but did think Specimen Days incredible, if ridiculously bleak. The writing was better. This reads like his first (possibly very juvenile) autobiographical novel that some publisher convinced him to "work on" after he became successful. It didn't work. It's over-written -- too many adjectives competing for space and cluttering up the images. The female characters are one-dimensional and written as parodies of faghags; they have no drive except a fear of aging (and losing their "beauty"), resulting in the desire to entrap men coded as queer. And for an ostensibly queer novel, the descriptions of sex are so mannered and unimaginative. Boring. And the male characters are kind of self-absorbed. Ugh. Well, whatever. ...more