CortÃ¡zar's cosmopolitan, Europeanized approach to his fiction is of long-standing; these new stories X-ray some of the stronger and weaker architectural features of that approach. In some of the best work, for instance, CortÃ¡zar uses his jazz-influenced style, full of necklace-like runs, to loop around obsessive or mysterious themes with ease (as Henry James, another expatriate, was equally able to do): two stories here--the inexplicably chilling ""Summer"" and ""In the Name of Bobby""--both deal with the unnameable, malignant change of atmosphere brought on by a quiet and spooky child. And two others are excellent examples of the tinkering with circumstance that is a hallmark of CortÃ¡zar's short fiction: in ""Lilliana Weeping,"" a dying man imagines, with the greatest fidelity, what the day immediately succeeding his death will be like for his family and friends; in ""A Change of Light,"" a radio actor creates a pre-idealized scenario with a fan-turned-lover. On the other hand, more than a few stories here don't work at all; they're either too pat or strivingly political--with CortÃ¡zar, not fervently political by aesthetic nature, seeming to overcompensate (as he also seemed to do in his last novel, A Manual for Manuel). But the stories of strange powers and influences are strong enough--if in less quantity--to leave a lasting, positive impression. So, on balance: a meritorious collection from an important writer.