Icarus hopscotching past minotaurs

“As with chapter 34, so with the rest of Hopscotch: throughout, Cortazar’s language performs, embodying (sometimes physically, as with chapter 34) a feeling or idea that readers must collaborate in constructing. Cortazar chooses to perform because he does not believe his role as author is to feed information to a passive reader; rather Cortazar prefers that the reader collaborate, projecting herself into scenes that he aptly demonstrates. The matter is stated clearly in one of the expendable chapters, when Cortazar puts these words into a note by Morelli, a shadowy author whom we only see (except for once) through his writing and what others say about him:

It would seem that the usual novel misses its mark because it limits the reader to its own ambit; the better defined it is, the better the novelist is thought to be. An unavoidable detention in the varying degrees of the dramatic, the psychological, the tragic, the satirical, or the political. To attempt on the other hand a text that would not clutch the reader but which would oblige him to become an accomplice as it whispers to him underneath the conventional exposition other more esoteric directions.

Cortazar does not clutch. Like the best authors, he trusts his readers. He constructs a labyrinth for them and then leaves them to figure it out. Physically, Hopscotch resembles a labyrinth in that it takes readers through its pages via an intricate, twisting path. The same is true for this prose that continually puts ideas in the reader’s head, continually tries to catch her attention and pull her into a maze of interpretation, of clues, characters, words, ideas that point back at one another like, to use Anais Nin’s words (quoted by Cortazar in Hopscotch), “a tower of layers without end.”

The more I think about passive readers versus active readers, the more I think about writer as dictator or writer as thing that shows and lets readers wander…the more I think I like the idea of trusting the reader, giving the reader freedom…

Not that every reader wants that freedom, because freedom is a complicated and sticky mess that involves choices and consequences and working towards something, and not just letting things happen, it requires something and it requires thought and empathy and culpability, so that in the end not every reader wants it and it can be confusing and overwhelming, because there is so much freedom there, there is so much to take in, to decide on….

it’s not a bad thing though, it’s a good thing, but it’s a not everyone wants it thing, but some people love it thing


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