Next week’s story The Masque of the Red Death by Edger Alan Poe
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Caleb J Ross (@calebjross) dropped by this week since Gerald is still on his amazing vacation (no, I’m not jealous at all). Caleb is the author of several books including the novels Stranger Will and I Didn’t Mean to be Kevin. He is also one of the hosts of the Important Question Podcast and possibly the most well read person I’ve ever had the opportunity to chat with. He both elevated the conversation and drove it right into not safe for kids territory.
Axolotl was a fascinating story and I left the taping with a long list of books added to my TBR pile. The highlight has to be, Anais’ final question… wan the narrator crazy? We debated surrealism versus magical realism, the uncanny valley and how specific the language was in the story compare to the emotions in evoked. I hope you enjoy this episode as much as we did.
Sam gave us a link to an entire pdf of a book of short stories by Julio Corázar check out these this collection Blow-up and the novel Hopscotch.
Don’t forget, to rate the story! For the history of our goofy system, see Anais’ post “Read Short Stories or Ray Bradbury Cries.” If you want to design a Bradberry, we’d love to see it. While Anais and I didn’t really enjoy last weeks episode, you guys definitely did. I was really excited to hear the different opinions and I am determined to give last weeks story a re-read once I’ve had some distance. Y’all rated What We’re Sure of by Brandi Reissenweber, 5.25 Bradberries.
So tell us, on a scale of 1-6 Bradberries, how do you rate Axolotl? Tell us in the comments below or via voicemail, and we will give you the final tally on the next episode.
Next week we are reading The Mask of the Red Death by Edger Alan Poe
11 comments on Axolotl – Julio Cortázar – Literary Roadhouse Ep 18
I usually really like the podcasts but in this case…not so much.
Julio Cortazar actually lived in Paris and wrote the story while living there not in Argentina.
It is an important aspect about the story since the man describes his travel to the aquarium. Going backwards actually reveals that he came from the Salpêtrière a famous psychiatric hospital.
Fascinating! Thanks for that insight. How do you link the story to Salpêtrière? I’d love to reread it through that lens.
This was my first time listening, but I was very pleasantly surprised. I thought it was a sad story, clearly the boy identified with these animals for a reason. Seeing himself permanently between stages of his life, like how the axolotl never grows beyond the larval state. But maybe after all when he left the axolotl behind, he was leaving behind the childish part of himself? And everyone visits their inner child once grown I think. But that doesn’t seem to be the point of the story.
Yes it’s profoundly sad I think, even though it doesn’t say so, just for the description of an axolotl’s (his) lifestyle. Waiting quietly for time to pass because you can’t do anything else. And he must be lonely! Spending all that time at a single enclosure means you can’t have so many (human) friends! I already knew what an axolotl was, and never thought of them being humanlike at all, I didn’t think anyone besides Mr. Narrator would think so. But maybe since I knew what it looked like the description was wasted on me, and lessened the story like was suggested.
Anyways, I might’ve won Anais’s quiz, except I thought she would eat human flesh to try it at least. I was surprised by everyone’s spirit animals though I must say. But I guess they’re such a personal thing, right? My spirit animal is a crow. Ca-caw!
And I give this story 5.5 Bradberries!
Welcome! I’m glad you enjoyed the story and your first listen. This story touched me a great deal and I’ve been reading some of the stories in the collections linked to in the notes. You should take a look, I’m quickly becoming a fan Julio Cortázar.
I liked this story a lot. It has a really trippy circular logic that defies easy description.
I didn’t see a clear-cut transformation from man to animal but a swapping of consciousness which morphs the point of view; the story starts off being narrated by a man who has not yet become an axolotl and ends up being narrated by an axolotl who was, but is no longer, a man. When the switch happens the narrator speaks of being a man trapped in an axolotl’s body; is the axolotl consciousness now happily “trapped” in the man’s body eating pizza and getting laid?
The fact that he slowly forgets that he was once a man and assumes the life of an axolotl leads me to believe that the same thing will happen to the amphibian consciousness trapped inside the man. They will both have been each other and yet don’t remember it while still being themselves……only to be drawn back together in a never ending loop….
To me the story seems to bring in ideas about the interconnectedness of all Life while also playing with concepts about self-actualization. What defines ME? What I physically am or what I think I am?
Ultimately I think it defies traditional analysis and don’t feel the author was actually trying to say anything specific. I have read it 4 times and am still processing it.
6 Blackberrries for me!
Your first 6, right? I’m glad you liked it!
Is this the type of fiction you like to read?
Yes my first 6!
It is hard to classify this story but I definitely like fiction with this tonemood. Sort of… timeless?
I really enjoyed this podcast; it was one of those where I start talking back to the computer. When Anais mentioned existentialism, I yelled back Yes! That’s what I had written down after reading the story. I love this story and I want to comment on the painting analogy. The guy going back every day to stare at the axolotl did not seem all that strange to me. It reminded me of art enthusiasts going back to stare at the same piece of art they have seen numerous times, many hours at a time. The descriptive language also paints a picture for us, but I don’t see a surrealist painting, I see expressionism. Just like van Gogh‘s exaggerated Starry Nights, are the golden eyes of the axolotl. If it wasn’t for the picture of the axolotl above the text I would have imagined them more human like. Not in the way we must often picture humans in our mind, in their adult stage, but a human in the fetal stage, just like the axolotls, awaiting their metamorphosis.
I would have totally won the “How well do you know Anais Quiz,” I know from her playing Civilization, she would prefer to be a dictator, and I have actually seen her take candy from a baby! Haha
I give this story 5.5 bradberries!
I think it’s fascinating that you pictured a fetal human!
Listen, babies need to learn young to cope with loss. 😉
If you wanted to yell back at the computer, I’ll take that as a compliment. I totally laughed at the fetal human, I could totally see that. So glad you loved the story.
It is a compliment 🙂 It was the description of the tiny human nails, that planted the image in my mind.