Reading Log: Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There

My girlfriend picked this up, read it in a day or two, then passed it on to me. I’d never heard of it (or seen the Academy Award-winning movie) and I thoroughly enjoyed the read. It’s 140 pages, but an incredibly easy and short read that wouldn’t be difficult to finish in a single day. I was fortunate enough to go into it knowing only that it was in some way a satire of life in the 60s, and it’s always refreshing (and rather rare) to begin reading something in near-total ignorance.

I understand how this book became a film. It’s extremely cinematic and plotted out simply, in distinct scenes. The prose is understated, but very good, getting out of the way and communicating everything we need to know with brevity and precision. It all flows so incredibly quickly; even though the entire book remains firmly in the realm of satire it never even begins to approach the limits of credulity -no easy task. Kosinski plays with the line between true idiotic simple-mindedness and the affected simplicity of the powerful and articulate (himself included, perhaps). Minimalism can be an obfuscation, rather than a paring-away into revelation. This ties in with his pervasive meditation on the nature of the self as an image of oneself- distinct as a character, made possible by the advent and mass dissemination of television.

It’s a damn good book, and it’s just as relevant now as it was in 1970. Give it a read.

 

Being There
by Jerzy N. Kosinski
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