Thursday, September 22, 2016

"Being There" by Jerzy Kosinski

"Being There" by Jerzy Kosinski was written in 1970 - a time with more limited television access and no social media (as we have today).  Is this book still relevant to our times, especially with people -- and the media -- transferring their own interpretations and opinions on public figures and politicians?

For information about Jerzy Kosinski, check out:

For interpretations of the book:


Anonymous said...

This is the second time I read this book - the first time being in college - but not as an assignment. I also read the Painted Bird which was very strange. Jerzy Kosinski came to speak at my college which is probably why I decided to read the books. I remember going to hear him speak. Unfortunately that was sooooo long ago I cannot recall any specifics of his talk.

I recalled the book being more strange the first time I read it. It did not seem as unusual this time probably for two reasons. First, because I have now seen the plot/theme incorporated in different ways in other movies, books and TV shows (with children being locked up and upon being released only know what they saw on TV or read in books). Second, because I think if all you did was watch TV today you could probably be "relatively" educated about the world around you as there are a vast number of stations with everything from all day news, sports, cooking, nature, travel, reality TV, etc. You can even watch television in different languages. Such variety was not available in 1970 when the book was written.

It is obvious that Chance was hidden away from society by the old man but we are never told why. Was he the old man's illegitimate son? The old man seemed to care for him (let him use his old suits, provided the TV, gave him food, shelter, a purpose) but yet did not provide for him on death. Also, it is not clear to me whether Chance was born with mental deficiencies or whether growing up without emotional support and social interactions, he never developed "normally". Thus given the opportunity, can he now learn to read, interact socially and understand government policies? I also wonder how Chance was able to distinguish the nature of shows he watched on television without having contact with the outside world. For example, how would you know "War of the Worlds" or "Star Trek" or "Get Smart" is not "reality" without contact with the outside world?

In college I was not one to necessarily trust people in office or in power, but did not necessarily think they were stupid or fools. Now I am not so sure. The book seems to describe Chance as simple and uneducated compared to the educated powerful men he is advising and yet seems to convey the message that they are the fools for taking his advice and interpreting his message to mean more than he is saying (or in some cases not saying, while interpreting his silence as agreement), basically hearing what they want to hear. Well don't we all hear what we want to hear or at least selectively listen and interpret most of the time?

So has anything changed since the book was written? I am not a supporter of Clinton or Trump; however, Eric Trump has stated that his father should not release his tax returns because "you would have a bunch of people who know nothing about taxes trying to look through and trying to come up with assumptions on things they know nothing about." "It would be foolish to do. I'm actually the biggest proponent of not doing it". Is he saying voters should vote for someone who assumes we are all too ignorant to understand specifically taxes, but presumptively foreign policy, the economy, etc.?

So who are the fools - Chance or the political leaders; the political leaders or the voters?

Anonymous said...

Where to begin. What a strange book. Hard to believe this all took place in only 4 days.!!!!! People appear so gullible it makes me wonder how many we have walking around today. To think a top businessman and his wife, the ambassador of Russia and the President of the USA could think so highly of what he said or rather didn't say. It seemed they heard what they wanted to hear and ran with it. Even EE providing him a name.

He may have looked the part with perfectly fitted suits/shirts/shoes but they were from another period and people thought nothing of it. When he told them he could neither read nor write they assumed it was because he was such a genius that he had no time for it. PLEASE!

Can you imagine a perfect stranger being invited into the home of a very wealthy woman with her having no knowledge of who he was and where he came from. It is reminiscent of the "Schratzys"(not certain of the
spelling) who walked into a gala at the White House with no invitation and no scrutiny by the security people. Stupidity lives!!!!

Appears people want something to be true so very much that they talk themselves into it. They make up Chance's history???? Yet page 62"nothing he said was definite enough to reveal what he thought of anything."

EE told Chance he was brainy and cerebral. He wants to conquer the woman from within her own self. What poppycock!