Another dazzling package of extremely suave intellectual constructs--from the one-of-a-kind Latin American/Parisian virtuoso. Cortazar's stories all seem to build off the tip of the slenderest speculative ideas. And those which impress least present their ideas as pellets in a largely undissolved state--with the tales hardly more than elaborate frames for Cortazar's more fleeting fancies. Among these intricate, polished, yet minor pieces: ""Graffiti,"" in which public drawing becomes a prohibited act of freedom in a future po_ lice state; ""Text In a Notebook,"" which posits a race of people who never leave the Buenos Aires subway; ""Return Trip Tango,"" utilizing a tango's musical structure to illustrate a woman driven mad by an old secret; and ""Clone,"" which explores a touring madrigal group's erotic dissension through the part-structures of Bach's ""The Musical Offering."" Elsewhere, however, at his very best, Cortazar goes beyond his initial premises, developing layers of metaphor while never sacrificing stylishness. In ""Story With Spiders,"" for instance, a couple vacationing in Martinique becomes morbidly yet discreetly interested in the goings-on of the people in the adjoining bungalow--and are eventually trapped in a bleak sexual web of their own making. And, in the title story, a clique reveres a movie actress to the point that the faults of her films become intolerable to them: they manage to steal all copies, change the offending parts through editing. . . and are only defeated in their quest for aesthetic perfection by the actress' unstoppable career. In work like this, the pyrotechnics and control of Cortazar's adventuring imagination are unsurpassed by any living writer. But even the weaker stories in this strong collection are an authentic part of a distinct canon by one of the most genuinely fascinating of international storytellers.