Mario Levrero, also called Jorge Varlotta, also called Alvar Tot, and a constellation of other pseudonyms, took hobby magazines seriously. In 1985, when he came to Buenos Aires to work at Juegos & Co., he came convinced to adapt to office life, and to hobbies as a way of thinking.
We spent several hours a day at our desks perpendicular to each other, looking at each other diagonally, looking for the right moment for another joke, another query, or another complaint about how complicated our existence was.
The adaptation to the office did not go so well. But he devoted remarkable energy to what we published. His focus was the creation (and promotion) of new mechanisms for crosswords and word games in general, and the relationship with readers. For a time, his favorite activity was preparing the magazine’s readers’ mail. Crusades, of which he was editor-in-chief.
Years later, for a living, he would make lots of conventional crosswords. He had the trade. But back then, inventing new things, he also had the passion.
The magazine we agreed on was Games for People of Mind. Started as Humor & Games, published by Ediciones de la Urraca, in 1980. It changed its name in January 1982, when it was taken over by the publishing house Juegos & Co. Its creator was Jaime Poniachik. I collaborated early, and eventually became editor-in-chief.
As for Jorge (Mario, etc.), he was a great friend of Jaime Poniachik since the old days of Montevideo. Bringing him to work in Buenos Aires was a move by Jaime aimed at saving his friend from an imminent eviction in a bad combination with poverty. He was already a regular contributor to the magazine. His pages were signed by Alvar Tot, an obvious anagram of Varlotta (his paternal surname).
In number 85 of Games (September 1986), started a column called “El boliche de Alvar Tot”, which continued to be published in almost all issues until the last one, on 104 (March 1988). (Until 88 inclusive, the magazine was biweekly; from there, monthly and with a larger format, as in its beginnings; only in number 95 was the Bowling alley missing).
In Bowling, he combined brief articles more or less related to the world of games, some riddles to solve and, above all, creative calls for the magazine’s readers. It is in these calls that the column reached the greatest brilliance, and where the special grace of the author is seen in his conversations with the readers. Typically, he proposed a creative activity (e.g., altering comic speech bubbles; narrating dreams; asking questions of the magazine For you 1923) and gave his own examples; in subsequent issues, it published the responses received, with comments.
In this book I gathered the content of all the published columns: articles, calls, hobbies. Some columns consisted entirely of reader responses (with comments from Levrero), and for that reason they are attached to those in which the original proposal was made.
I don’t know if my friend Jorge would have wanted this part of his work to appear as a book. For the memory that I have from so much time shared with him in that office, in his house, in cafes, This is a necessary bow, a tribute, a taste that must be given every so often. Thanks Jorge.