There are many reasons to read Paul Bowles. One is for the strange atmospheres he describes, another is for the fragile, delicate and easily dissembled egos of his protaganists. A typical Bowles story introduces you to all of these elements at once, one playing or preying on the other. In these stories we see the unraveling of identity after identity and the impression that builds as one moves from one story to another is that there is nothing that can save this from happening to the unprotected or unsheltered westerner whose identity structure disintegrates so easily when divorced from the western setting it is so reliant on. This pattern is also evident in his famous novel Sheltering Sky, a document of one man seeking dissolution in the desert, the fact that he is with a wife and a friend only underline his inability to desire anything, he simply seeks to journey away from everything. In Bowles stories (which take place in both South American and North African settings) the westerner, often an American, is seen as an unwanted invader by the natives of the visited region. The anti-colonial sentiment is there in these stories but Bowles' westerners seem to be the only ones unaware of it. But that is just one aspect of these stories, each story also has at least one other unsavory aspect as well(murder, incest, rape, drugs). The natives of Bowles foreign locales are usually not given much in the way of individual identities, it is the westerners who are singled out for study, the stories take place in their minds and thought processes. The foreign locales serve merely as backdrops, though very atmospheric writing makes those backdrops part of these stories appeal. Bowles' westerners are all met at a time in their lives when they are at a breaking point(Echo)or seeking departure from the past(Pages From Cold Point), or a spouse (Call at Corazon). We see a missionary in one story slowly give up hope of ever communicating to the natives he wishes to convert, in fact he is more changed by the natives than they are by him(Pastor Dowe at Tacate). In another a photographer with insomnia, a very common ailment in these stories, finds himself responding in some strange way to his surroundings, he begins to let his surroundings speak to some deeper instinctual part of him, and he slowly gives over his old identity to it, but letting his gaurd down has only made him less careful and more vulnerable to those who see him as one who is somewhere he does not belong(Tapiama)and that can never lead to any good especially not in a Bowles story. These stories will remind readers more of Poe, a favorite of Bowles, than any of the colonial or postcolonial authors because the element in his fiction that stands out most is the instability of western identity which makes it ripe for corruption. These characters are not so much seeking to arrive somewhere as escape from whence they came so really the places these sometimes horrific dramas occur in are less important than the people to whom these horrors occur. Bowles did spend his entire writing career in North Africa and South America so the stories are rich with details but they remain settings merely, however elaborate.