On "Letter to a Young Lady in Paris"

I am teaching a course this summer on junk. I consider the term broadly. So does Thierry Bardini, whose exceptional Junkware was the inspiration for my syllabus, in a round about sort of way.

Yesterday my students and I discussed Julio Cortázar’s “Letter to a Young Lady in Paris.” And, may I say, this story is absolutely wonderful.

Cortázar is deceptively inviting to teach. His bizarre, perfectly wrought short stories beckon because you know, for the most part, that students will adore him and the dark and complex, surreal worlds he produces. But his work, because of his nearly unparalleled erudition and critical, formal radicality, can sometimes produce classroom conversations that are difficult to direct.

It’s always, though, worth the effort.

And besides, when the main character in the text you’re teaching has the peculiar problem of vomiting up baby bunnies,* you’re guaranteed to engage your students. You’re also guaranteed to take great pleasure in re-reading the work–again and again and again.


*If this isn’t an exceptional metaphor for all kinds of things, I don’t know what is. Why it hasn’t made its way into popular lexicon is beyond me. Think about what it could offer to our thirsty ears: “Oh man, Alli sure is vomiting up the proverbial bunny.”

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