Well Bottom Blues

Oh my God it's full of stars!

Re-reading Hopscotch in the 21st Century

In Defense of the Kindle

When I first read Hopscotch in mass-market paperback edition late in high school in the 1970s, I was taken by the combined celebration and critique of mid-20th century bohemia. I was drawn to it perhaps because I was also reading the Beats, and learning of the early folk scene in New York in the early 1960s. I read Christopher Isherwood as a result of Cabaret and an introduction to the songs of Bertolt Brecht. Bohemia seemed a lifestyle to aspire to in my generalized dissatisfaction with the world as presented by my parent’s generation and the Christian Brothers De La Salle.

On that first reading I glossed over the frequent French and struggled a bit with my high school Spanish to make out those passages. I think I skimmed so much.. Later I re-read it with more intent, with a Larousse’s Spanish/English dictionary and my then partners small French/English dictionary. But I was still only skating over the surface. It was a book written by people who were multi-lingual for a sympathetic audience of similarly empower intellectuals.

I decided to re-read it recently and purchased both the current trade paperback and a Kindle edition, distrustful of whether Kindle would handle the page jumps correctly. I started the hard copy first but kept jumping to the Kindle for translations. Finally, I moved entirely on the Kindle version. I have not finished it yet, but I think I am fully appreciating the book for the first time. It’s not just embedded translations, but the ability to jump to Wikipedia for information on artists I don’t recognize. When The Club was arguing whether Horacio was a Klee or a Miro or a de Silva, even in high school I understood the first two references. But de Silva went right over my head in the 1970s and 1980s. And today with the help of the Internet I suspect, given the juxtaposition of Miro and Klee, that they meant Maria Helena Vieira da Silva. But I can’t rule out Cortázar making a double entendre including the fabulist paintings of the Brazilian Francisco de Silva.

Hopscotch was always a book of many stories, with odd passages and closets scattered throughout. American education does not prepare us to fully understand a book like this in high school or early college, with its many languages and outside references. So I find that in the Kindle I have found a way to fully explore every nook and cranny.

I still enjoy the heft of a real book in my hands, but for a work like this reading on Kindle is like having an annotated edition or companion. I spent a month once in Italy studying Ezra Pound’s The Cantos with Tarrell F. Carroll’s Companion beside it. You cannot begin to fully comprehend The Cantos without that work. Here the Kindle grants me much the same All Access Pass into Hopscotch.

To sum up, this is a fascinating book for anyone drawn to the milieu of post-WWI bohemia. And if you’re going to read it, read it on a Kindle or similar device that offers translation and internet searches. It is the only way other than earning several degrees in languages, literature, and the history of art

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About Me

Mark Folse is a provincial diarist and minor poet in and from New Orleans. His past blogging adventures included the Katina/Federal Flood blog wetbankguide on blogspot.com which David Simon told NY Magazine was one of three blogs that helped helped inspire Treme, and Toulouse Street, which once outranked the Doobie Brothers on Google Search. His poetry and other writing has appeared in the New Laurel Review, The Dead Mule School of Southern Literature, The Rumpus and elsewhere.



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