Ah, what to say about Hopscotch (or, if you prefer the Spanish-language version, Rayuela). What an interesting book. Let me start with the concept: the introduction to the book explains that there are 2 ways to read it. The first is to read straight through, from chapter 1 to chapter 56. The second is much more complicated - one starts at (I believe) chapter 79 (I just returned the book to the library this morning, so I don't have a reference point!), and at the end of each chapter there is a number in parentheses, indicating the next chapter to be read. (There is also a guide with the order of chapters in the front of the book, which I found to be invaluable at one point, when I managed to somehow end up on the wrong "path".) The interesting thing is that both of the "versions" are the same basic storyline - at first I thought that I'd be missing out if I didn't read both, but what I realized is that you do always end up reading chapters 1-56, in order - just with lots of "extra" chapters interspersed in between, if you choose the second reading option. I am sure the book is very good the first way, but those extra chapters, while sometimes drawn out and seemingly completely extraneous, really do add a lot to the book, overall. They are asides that aren't really vital to the story itself, but that add flesh to the tale that Cortazar is trying to tell. Reflecting back on the story, I think now that they were indispensible (as much as they sometimes seemed completely out there relative to the plot).
Cortazar himself is a beautiful writer; he is definitely inspiring me to want to write more (I haven't really written anything in the way of prose since my creative writing course last year in Ithaca). He finds these great ways to tell you things; for instance, the one that stands out the most for me (perhaps oddly) is the way he describes litter in the streets - I wish I remembered the exact wording, but it was something along the lines of a newspaper offering itself, spread wantonly, to be read by the starry sky. Or, that was the gist I got, anyway. The plot of the novel itself was interesting but not really relevant; Cortazar seems much more concerned with his characters than with any real story. But it works well; he develops these people into such multifaceted creatures. And very tragic ones. It's all terribly beautiful.
I don't know if I'd recommend the book to everyone; it is lengthy (not just in terms of physical size, but in terms of wordiness) and can be tedious at times during the "extra" chapters, but I do think it is well worth it. I found it difficult to get into, but once I was in, it was quite engaging.
It took me a long time to find this book; I vaguely recall reading that it was listed as someone's favorite book on Friendster (back in the day when Friendster was big), but they listed it under Rayuela, the original Spanish (and much more beautiful, I think) title. I looked on Amazon for that book, only to find it was out of print. I can't remember when it was that I made the connect & realized that Hopscotch was the English version, but I was lucky to find it in the Boston Public Library system (it's an old, tattered 1970s copy) and get ahold of it.
Hopscotch in Argentina sounds quite different from the hopscotch I knew as a girl growing up in Connecticut. I'd be interested to see it played. The basic concept is the same, though, both in the game & in the title of the book - one hops around, from square to square, and tries to get their pebble into certain spaces. I definitely remember playing that every day at recess with several like-minded friends when I was in elementary school. We were the quiet girls, non-confrontational and rather shy I think, so it was a good stay-out-of-the-way-at-recess game. I recall being neither particularly good nor particularly bad. We just played every day. Sometimes I won, sometimes I lost. I don't think it was about the winning or losing, though. It was just about playing the game. Story of my life, I suppose....
The other thing I loved about Hopscotch was that the characters constantly drank & talked about yerba mate - yum! I kept craving that while I was reading. And I wouldn't even have had any idea what that was if Danny & I hadn't watched The Take last year, and as a consequence, bought our own gourds & bombillas. I just wish we used them still. I'll have to go dust mine off.
Okay, enough babbling from me today. I promise, a Japan entry soon!! xoxo
AUTHOR: Steve Almond
TITLE: Feminism Without Borders
AUTHOR: Chandra Talpade Mohanty