Constructing the postwar art novel: Paul Bowles, James Laughlin, and the making of the sheltering sky

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Abstract

This paper considers the story of the making of Paul Bowles's novel The Sheltering Sky as a case study for the emergence of the art novel as a commercial niche after World War II. Bowles's novel expresses disdain for American culture and depicts its characters' flight to the Sahara, but its subject matter contrasts with the story of the novel's creation: an unlikely collection of American mass-culture and high-culture institutions, including Doubleday, the William Morris Agency, and the avant-garde publisher New Directions, collaborated in the production and promotion of The Sheltering Sky. The story of the novel's making and of its immediate commercial success, the product of a New Directions marketing campaign that effectively advertised Bowles's distance from American culture, exemplifies a neglected aspect of postwar cultural history, when institutions from across the cultural spectrum recognized the existence of a growing market for avant-garde detachment. (EB)

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)186-199+351
JournalPMLA
Volume121
Issue number1
DOIs
StatePublished - 2006
Externally publishedYes

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