Kris's Reviews > Blow-Up and Other Stories

Blow-Up and Other Stories by Julio Cortázar
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Aug 14, 12

bookshelves: fiction, latin-america, short-stories, argentina, favorites
Read from July 11 to 21, 2012

This volume is my introduction to Cortázar, part of my 2012 Year of Discovering Latin American and Spanish writers. I have his novels on my horizon, and I'm itching to read them, but I thought starting with a short story volume would be a good introduction.

In the past, I have neglected short stories, in part because of an early preference for huge novels that I could escape in for days at a time. There may have been some elements of an introvert's frustration over getting to know a series of characters, only to say goodbye to them after 15 pages or so and to have to ready myself for meeting a whole new set of characters all over again. (Silly, I know - treating a short story collection as a literary cocktail party.)

I'm very glad that I've shaken off those earlier views, because I found this collection to be captivating. Cortázar destablizes our understandings of identity in every story. Characters merge into other characters. Boundaries, physical and psychic, dissolve in thin air. When reading the first story, Axolotl, I actually had a physical sense of my perspective shifting at a key point in the story, almost as if I were watching a film and visualizing an extreme change in perspective. Cortázar also is masterful at creating a surreal atmosphere of menace in many of these stories, which is all the more effective because the danger doesn't unfold all at once. It creeps up on the reader.

I have read other reviewers who discussed their confusion when reading many of these stories. Cortázar often uses a technique of jumping midway into his narrative and leaving it up to the reader to patiently hang on for the ride until he provides clues to piece together later in the story. If you're willing to play along with Cortázar, there's a game-like quality in many of these stories. For this reason, I recommend not reading it all at once from beginning to end. Some time between stories helps to increase the feeling of tension at Cortázar's approach.

This is a volume that begs for re-reading. I plan to revisit it soon.
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Reading Progress

07/17/2012 page 10
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Comments (showing 1-23 of 23) (23 new)

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Kris I will! I have Hopscotch too, but thought that perhaps I should start with the stories first.

I am less than a week away from vacation, which I am planning around books on my tbr list - how sad is that? :)


Kris How are you feeling? It sounds like you are making a great recovery.

I think I already read pretty quickly, and then graduate school made me read even faster (it was that or die). There is such a thing as reading too quickly, though - I really do need to try to slow down every once in a while, especially for fiction.

I read some books for work, have a very short commute, and am single with no kids - lots of time for reading.


Kris The internet does make it difficult to focus - lots of shiny objects everywhere. I know I'm tired when, instead of reading, I'm going back and forth between Goodreads and the library and various and sundry bookstores and reviews, adding to my tbr list instead of actually reading something. It's very tiring.

It sounds like another week is a good idea - listen to your body!


message 4: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Five stars? Nice, I should look into some Cortazar.


Kris Great short stories - themes of shifts in identity, perspective, reality combined with some very creative scenarios. I decided to read this before getting to Hopscotch, which I hope to read later this summer.


message 6: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Sounds excellent. I've only read his story The Night Face Up and was blown away, so I can imagine the rest was amazing. Ooo, I'll be looking forward to your thoughts on Hopschotch, I've been meaning to pick that up too.


Kris I'm really excited about reading Hopscotch. I also have another book by Cortazar - Autonauts of the Cosmoroute that looks great.

It's been wonderful catching up a bit with Latin American and Spanish authors. I had neglected them for far too long, so this has been a great summer of discovery for me.


message 8: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Oh, nice that sounds good too. I hadn't realized he had so many books until recently. I hear 62: A Model Kit is amazing as well.

Me either, Bolano is really getting me interested in them though with all his lists of great poets to investigate. I'd only read Pessoa and Borges before now, but both of those are huge favorites of mine


Kris I'm getting 62: A Model Kit - I understand from Mark that it's supposedly good to start with that before Hopscotch. I have The Book of Disquiet waiting to be read here, so on your recommendation I'm going to move it up in the tbr pile. Bolaño is definitely adding to my tbr pile in great ways, and I love what great resources everyone is in Ian's Savage Detectives group. It's great to find kindred spirits, since, even at Penn, people often look at me a bit askance re. my extracurricular reading.


message 10: by s.penkevich (new) - added it

s.penkevich Nice, Disquiet is quite good. That's been a bedsite book for awhile now, it's mostly just random gatherings of thoughts so it is a good one to read a little bit a day over time. His poetry is quite amazing to, it really blew me away how he is able to create so many different poet characters and stick to their style so well.

Yeah, I've been trying to catch up with the group thoughts lately, I need to participate more. GR is such a great place for learning. I feel ive learned more on here than I did getting a lit degree ha.


message 11: by Steve (new)

Steve Short story collection = literary cocktail party. I like that.

Looks like Cortázar is another one to add to the list. You should be on commission, Kris, for the sales job you're doing so well.


message 12: by Emma (new) - rated it 4 stars

Emma Hi Kris, great review. I had similar feelings when reading Cortázar for the first time but couldn’t put it quite so eloquently! I highly recommend 62: A Model Kit, it is my favourite book of the year so far. I have Blow-up and other stories at home and intended to start it weeks ago but haven't got round to it yet. It sounds ace though!


message 13: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Steve wrote: "Short story collection = literary cocktail party. I like that.

Looks like Cortázar is another one to add to the list. You should be on commission, Kris, for the sales job you're doing so well."


Hi Steve, and thanks! I'm focusing on reviewing books that I loved -- we'll see what happens if and when I write a negative review.


message 14: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Emma wrote: "Hi Kris, great review. I had similar feelings when reading Cortázar for the first time but couldn’t put it quite so eloquently! I highly recommend 62: A Model Kit, it is my favourite book of the ..."

Thanks so much, Emma! I have 62: A Model Kit as my next Cortázar to read. And I'm looking forward to hearing what you think of Blow Up when you pick it up.


message 15: by Mark (last edited Aug 17, 2012 04:33AM) (new)

Mark Steve wrote: "Short story collection = literary cocktail party. I like that.

That was going to be my comment too Kris. Lovely image


message 16: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Mark wrote: "Steve wrote: "Short story collection = literary cocktail party. I like that.

That was going to be my comment too Kris. Lovely image"


Thanks so much, Mark.


message 17: by Jim (new)

Jim Excellent, Kris! I love your tour of Latin American and Spanish writers - I too have felt the bite of the SD bug.

I envy your reading speed and focus!


message 18: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris Jim wrote: "Excellent, Kris! I love your tour of Latin American and Spanish writers - I too have felt the bite of the SD bug.

I envy your reading speed and focus!"


Thanks, Jim! It was easier when I was on vacation - the last week was a bit up and down.....


message 19: by Jim (new)

Jim Kris wrote: "Thanks, Jim! It was easier when I was on vacation - the last week was a bit up and down....."

You leave me in the dust and dizzy, that is for certain.


message 20: by PGR (new)

PGR Nair Cortazar is one of my favorite writers. I had reviewed his marvelous poems here (Saving Twilight). I personally rank Night face up as one of the 10 greatest stories in world literature ( another story that comes in this ten is Marquez's "The other side of death"). "The house taken over" is another great story in this collection.


message 21: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris PGR wrote: "Cortazar is one of my favorite writers. I had reviewed his marvelous poems here (Saving Twilight). I personally rank Night face up as one of the 10 greatest stories in world literature ( another st..."

Thank you so much for your comment, and for directing my attention to Cortázar's poetry. Simply beautiful - I must seek out that volume.


message 22: by Jon (new)

Jon Quinton Thank you for taking me right back to 1988, year in which I discovered Cortazar through stories such as Axolotl, The Pursuer, and others from the collection. The one where the reader becomes the victim of the murderer in his book blew me away, reminding me of one of Escher's prints, such as the one of the hand drawing the hand which is drawing the hand. Look what I can do in two and a half pages! Amazing.
Having to read photocopies of the individual stories from some practically unobtainable volume only added to the mystique.
I went on to read every work I could find: Hopscotch , All Fires the Fire, The Winners, A Change of Light etc etc. And the only book length biography/study I was able to find: Cortazar l'Enchanteur, by Karine Berriot, which I betcha is out of print.
I'll be rereading him at some point, for sure.
Thanks again, Kris!


message 23: by Kris (new) - rated it 5 stars

Kris What a great comment, Jon. I love that image of your poring over photocopies. Your parallel between Cortazar's stories and Escher's prints is apt.


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