Op Oloop Review at Three Percent

Op-oloop Three Percent has a review of Op Oloop by Argentine Juan Filloy, who by all accounts was an incredibly eccentric man and was held in high esteem by Julio Cortazar. He was born in 1894 and lived till the year 2000, and Op Oloop was originally published in 1934.

I'm a bit divided on this book, myself. There are many things this book has going for it: for instance, who could not be at least a little bit cheered by a title (and main character) with the name "Op Oloop"?

As the title implies, the book is written in the comic mode. It's not the kind of book that ever made me laugh out loud–the humor in Op is more like what I've found in Fielding, who rarely provokes me to laughter even though I read long stretched of Tom Jones with a bemused grin stuck to my face. I suppose you could say the same for Op.

The book also has some amazing one-liners generally strewn pretty much throughout the entire thing. Here are just a few of the ones I underlined: "My voice is always an intruder in the theater where I perform"; "We're numbers, and events are calculations"; "He was irritated by the unreliability of his internal climate"; "Punctuality is a way of grafting oneself seamlessly onto the trunk of time"; "The Finnish Consul, can in hand, teeth on edge, appeared to be masticating his own indignation."

In short, I think there's a lot to this book, and it certainly grabbed my attention. It's not a book that can be simply dismissed.

My problem with Op would be on the level of plot. For the first 2/3 the book meanders around from event to event in a loosely organized manner, which is perfectly fine with me. As Chad notes in his review, there's a lengthy dinner scene that
lurches around in utter disorganization, and that form feels perfectly
suited to Op and its characters (the eccentric and the wealthy of Argentina's golden era) in the way that many scenes in Hopscotch, in
their lack of definite definition, feel perfectly suited to that book's subjects.

But in the last 1/3 this book tries to develop a kind of urgency, and I think it fails at that. After that dinner, Op Oloop goes to a whorehouse to be with his 1,000th prostitute (despite being betrothed to a woman he seems to love), and it is here that the book needlessly tries to acquire a feeling of urgency. Not only does Op try to graft on something it doesn't need–it also tries to do that in a manner that I found very predictable and contrived. The final scenes, which I assume are supposed to be climactic and even poignant, felt wholly artificial, largely because for the first 2/3 Filloy left Op as a mysterious eccentric, so it feels strange when suddenly we are faced with a (highly superficial) attempt at psychological development. I hesitate to give details so as not to spoil the plot for anyone who wants to read this book, but suffice to say, what happens at the whorehouse and thereafter begs incredulity.

I think the first 2/3 are worth reading, though, especially the dinner scene, which is prolonged, strange, and excellent. And perhaps you would find more value in that last 1/3 than I did. I'd be interested to hear more from Filloy, as he seems like a writer worth knowing, although it was a disappointment that this book didn't stand up through till the end.



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