Jimmy's Reviews > 62: A Model Kit

62 by Julio Cortázar
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May 19, 2010

really liked it
bookshelves: argentina, male, novel, and-a-half-stars, year-1960s
Read from July 09 to 12, 2010

This book came from analytical, almost scientific beginnings, the concept of which is detailed in chapter 62 of Hopscotch. But the experience of reading this book is anything but scientific, it is like waking up from a dream: you genuinely feel things in your own logical way, but now that you're awake and back in this world it is impossible to put into our human words, words that are real ones, that seem so insufficient, mere human words which are the same instruments that Cortazar uses to make you feel this way to begin with. This has got to be one of the most ambitious books ever attempted. I still have very little idea what happened or what it means, but the general "feel" of the book is in my bones, as if I had just walked into a heavy fog.

That said, I still think Cortazar can do better. The first half of this book blew me away, but in the last half that precarious and perfect balance started to break down a little bit for me. What is it exactly? Hard to say, as everything about this book is so hard to put into words. But it has something to do with the silliness of the whole Carac, Pollanco, snail thing that worked in the first half because it was still mysteriously strange and relatively rare but by the second half I started dreading their appearance. It also has to do with the fact that some of the plot elements began to come into focus, and almost get in the way of the actual emotions/atmosphere. That may not be the case on a second read, though.

If this were from any other author, I would give it 5 stars. But even though I haven't read a book by Cortazar that I have given a 5 star rating yet, I definitely feel like he's already one of my favorites, and yet... Cortazar in my mind is like a pure writer. I don't know if that makes sense, but in his sentences sometimes I see the perfect unadulterated writer, driven purely by something within the writing itself, within the sounds and the logic that has nothing to do with things outside. Perhaps because it is the glimpse of this perfection that I see so often in him that I want to find something of his that sustains it purely. But also perhaps because he is a pure writer that he can never write something that sustains this, that it only comes out in bursts--because his messiness is what makes him so pure and beautiful and human.

I have a feeling that last paragraph only made sense to me.
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Reading Progress

07/10/2010 page 80
28.0% "Calac had insisted many times that my sensitivity to hands is unhealthy, and that a psychoanalyst, etcetera."
07/10/2010 page 134
47.0% ""the fact is there's a strike" / "oh then it's different" / "and as they're sure to fire me because I'm the only one on strike it's better to be with my friends""
07/11/2010 page 159
55.0% "And people think that names like that only turn up in Borges."
07/11/2010 page 179
62.0% "Chalchiuhtotolin abbia misericordia di te, god of darkness, precious water, flowery destroyer. Selah."

Comments (showing 1-6 of 6) (6 new)

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Oriana I actually gasped -- seriously, out loud -- when I saw that you'd reviewed this. I know so few people who have actually read it, let alone bothered to parse their thoughts and feelings about it.

This here is an absolutely beautiful sentiment, and spot fucking on: But the experience of reading this book is anything but scientific, it is like waking up from a dream: you genuinely feel things in your own logical way, but now that you're awake and back in this world it is impossible to put into our human words, words that are real ones, that seem so insufficient, mere human words which are the same instruments that Cortazar uses to make you feel this way to begin with.

I'm surprised that you didn't like Calac and Polanco; I thought they were really necessary levity and humor in an otherwise intensely cerebral book. And what about the other characters? What about the couple (fuck, sorry, I forgot everyone's names), the timid girl who winds up going to bed with the young-ish guy because she knows that her boyfriend will never be able to break up with her without romanticizing her in his memory, and so she wants him to hate her? The letter she writes him makes me literally cry, every time I read it. What about the slippery magic of the long passages that start as one thing but turn into something scarily else, with no transition visible, like the girl who likes a certain kind of cheese on the train station poster, like the vampire in the hotel, where you never know if its real or not? What about, what about... oh fuck, I need to read this again right now, I'm getting off the computer this minute.


Jimmy Yes, I loved all those parts as well. I agree about the necessary levity thing, and at least in the beginning of the novel I thought it worked very well. But as the novel hit the half-way mark, the dialogue felt increasingly less humorous and just silly. Then again, I have a below average tolerance for silliness, so the fault is probably mine and not the book's.

The vampire thing especially was creepy, intriguing, and awesome (and I'm much pleased by the fact that I can now introduce this book to unsuspecting Twilight-loving readers as a practical joke... "Oh yeaaaah if you love Twilight you'll love this" haha). And the idea of "the city" was so well done--real enough to be a presence but vague enough to be mysterious and unquantifiable to the reader. Oh, and The Girl with the Babybel Cheese Eyes (next Stieg Larsson thriller?)


Oriana I would totally steal that Twilight-lovers idea, except, thankfully, I don't know anyone who gives a shit about those books. And The Girl with the Babybell Cheese Eyes! Ha!! And you say you don't have a tolerance for silliness?


Jimmy Doh! You got me there.


Nate D Just re-read and I think our difference is here:

"It also has to do with the fact that some of the plot elements began to come into focus, and almost get in the way of the actual emotions/atmosphere."

For me, the ambiguous atmosphere and emotions of the opening worked best in retrospect, once they had real characters and event informing them. At first, the silliness of some of the correlations (the Sylvaner) made me wonder incorrectly if Cortazar might just be playing with me, but this was totally not the case. The opening is totally chilling now, when I go back to it. But I totally needed the later events/characters to focus that and understand it, I think.

Oh, a-and I became far more tolerant of Calac once his place in the chain of sadness was indicated, during his inner monologue at the museum. He stopped being a buffoon and started being something else with a veneer of buffoonery, if that makes sense, which helped a lot in the subsequent pond sequence.


Jimmy I clearly need to re-read this because I don't really remember the specifics that you are referring to. I'll respond more in your review :)...


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