July 29, 2012

Literary Pick (***)

-Julio Cortázar

I chose not to read Hopscotch in the traditional linear fashion, which ends in chapter 56 and omits a third of the novel. There are a total of 155 chapters. A table of instructions takes the place of a table of content. There are 3 parts, "From the Other Side," "From This Side," and "From Diverse Sides".
In the second method the novel begins with chapter 73, then hopscotches from chapter 1, then 2, then 116..
Chapter 131 is read twice.

After a bit of head-scratching, I discovered that the sentences on chapter 34 must be skipped in order to make sense. There are two stories in that chapter. One of Oliviera's visit to his Uncle in Madrid, and the other about La Maga.
The first and second lines (sentences) in this chapter both begin with capital letters, which was the first suggestive clue and indication on how it should be read.
The story about the uncle (first story) ends first. 5 lines before the end, to be exact. It was somewhat confusing at first, but then I realized that after the phrase, "were already married." there was no new sentence with a capital letter, thus ending the first story.

I've always been intrigued by novels that center around artists and writers in cafe's and small apartments, especially if they take place in Paris or South America. These seem to me to be more cerebral and authentically Bohemian than the beatnik gatherings in America, which I feel are more self-centered than collaborative.
The story starts with a group of artists "The Serpent Club" who often discuss topics on Art, music, philosophy, and Jazz, mentioning big names such as Picasso, Dizzie Gillespie, Dostoyevsky, and Descartes. You can expect a good deal of -isms thrown in this section as well.
Horacio Oliveira, (the protagonist of the novel) seems to be in pursuit of something in Paris. Often involving himself in lively chatter with the other members of the Serpent Club and taking long solitary walks. He resides with his lover, La Maga, who he often belittles, and who disappears from his life, nowhere to be found, shortly after her son, Rocamadour, passes away. Realizing he (Horacio) misses and appreciates La Maga, now more than ever, he leaves Paris for his home-land Argentina. There his friend "The Traveler" meets him at the boat and takes him under his wing. The Travelers wife (Talita) bears a striking resemblance to "La Maga", causing some tension in the friendship. There The Traveler helps Horacio obtain a job in the circus he works for, and later in a mental hospital where Horacio finally loses what's left of his mind.

It's difficult for me to review this novel because it seems to be cut up into a few categories. I didn't mention the part about Morelliana, the writer, who gets hit by a car, is aided by Horacio, then rushed to the hospital.
The parts with La Maga I drank up. I was intoxicated with the unorthodox method of reading the book. It was like a game. There are many pages I dog-eared in the first half because they were either hilarious or thought provoking. The relationship with his friend, The Traveler, and his wife, were interesting, but I didn't seem to have the same passion for reading it as I did the parts with the Serpent Club and La Maga. I particularly enjoyed the part when Horacio met Madame Berthe Trepat, a famous concert pianist, who he was honored to comfort after concert-goers empty the theater because she kept making mistakes. He offers to walk her home, but he realizes the extent her mental instability, and finds himself wondering how in the hell got into the mess in the first place. I thought it was hysterical how he just wanted to start running and leave her there in the middle of the street. I don't think I've ever had more fun reading a book. The structure is brilliant and innovative, especially for a novel written in the 50's. I highly recommend the experience of reading it, if for nothing else.


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