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An American literary cult figure, Paul Bowles established his legacy with the novel The Sheltering Sky. An immediate sensation, it became a fixture in American letters. Bowles then returned his energies to the short story -- the genre he preferred and soon mastered.
Bowles' s short fiction is orchestral in composition and exacting in theme, marked by a unique, delicately spare style, and a dark, rich, exotic mood, by turns chilling, ironic, and wry. In "Pastor Dowe at Tecate," a Protestant missionary is sent to the far reaches of the globe -- a place, he discovers, where his God has no power. In "Call at Corazon," an American husband abandons his alcoholic wife on their honeymoon in a South American jungle. In "Allal," a boy's drug-induced metamorphosis into a deadly serpent leads to his violent death, but not before he feels the "joy" of sinking his fangs into his human prey. Here too are his most famous works, such as "The Delicate Prey," a grimly satisfying tale of vengeance and "A Distant Episode," which Tennessee Williams proclaimed "a masterpiece of short fiction."
Though shocking, Bowles's stories possess a symmetry between beauty and terror that is haunting and ultimately moral. Like Poe, Bowles had an instinctive adeptness with the nightmare vision. Like Hemingway, Bowles is famously unsentimental, a skilled craftsman of crystalline prose.