Monday, March 21, 2011

Guttersnipe Reviews: Julio Cortazar

Julio Cortazar

Blow-Up and Other Stories

I read many collections of short stories and I often find that they are like pop albums: a few catchy numbers up front followed by fillers, repeats and instrumental versions. But every one of these stories is entirely interesting, including “The Distances” which I admit I didn’t understand at all, even the second time through.

Many of these stories exist in the territory of terror and awe, but the three I liked best were all occasions of sustained compassion, and each revolved around a death. “At Your Service” is about a paid mourner who ends up grieving for real. “The Gates of Heaven” is about the death of a dancing girl. The novella “The Pursuer”, based on the last days of Charlie Parker, is so convincing that I fell for it hook, line and sinker and believed I was reading an actual memoir, that he must have actually sat in a Paris hotel room with a ranting naked Charlie Parker. This novella is also a meditation on genius, which unfortunately does absolutely nothing to exempt one from ordinary misery.

If you enjoy this, make sure you read ‘Cronopios and Famas’, Cortazar’s playful eccentric book of tiny stories and prose poems – there’s nothing like it.

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