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Being There Paperback – September 20, 1999


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Product Details

  • Series: Kosinski, Jerzy
  • Paperback: 141 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press; Reprint edition (September 20, 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 9780802136343
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802136343
  • ASIN: 0802136346
  • Product Dimensions: 8.2 x 5.4 x 0.5 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 6.4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.1 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (110 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #148,595 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"'Not until you put the book down do you realize how chilling is the image of ourselves in Kosinski's mirror...It will survive as a seminal work' " -- John Barkham Saturday Review "'Chance, a fabulous creature of our age'" Time "'Being There is a reverse parable, highly polished and patterned to the last twitch of the nerves'" -- Norman Shrapnel Guardian "'A tantalizing knuckle ball of a book delivered with perfectly timed satirical hops and metaphysical flutters'" -- R.Z. Sheppard Time "'Extremely well written. Under the circumstances, I can only urge as many people as possible to rush out and buy it'" -- Auberon Waugh Spectator --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From the Publisher

Chauncey Gardiner is the great enigma: a hero of the American media. TV loves him; print pursues him. He is a household face. He is the one everybody is talking about, though nobody knows what HE is talking about. No one knows where he has come from, but everybody knows he has come to money, power and sex. Was he led to all this by the lovely, well-connected wife of a dying Wall Street tycoon? Or is Chauncey Gardiner riding the waves all by himself because, like a TV image, he floated into the world buoyed up by a force he did not see and could not name? Does he know something we don't? Will he fail? Will he ever be unhappy? The reader must decide.

"Being There is one of those rare books which echoes in the mind long after you have finished it. It will survive as a seminal work of the Seventies."--New York Post. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.


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Customer Reviews

If you have already seen the film, be sure and read the book as well.
Jeffrey Leach
In conclusion, this is a unique novel that presents a different type of story--a story not to be missed!!!
Stephen Pletko
The text itself is written in an understandable language so that the book can be read fluently.
Max

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

55 of 56 people found the following review helpful By Jeffrey Leach HALL OF FAME on September 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
Jerzy Kosinski, the author of "Being There," had a long career as a distinguished author. After coming to the United States from his native Poland, Kosinski embarked on a writing career spanning nearly three decades. During this period he wrote nine novels and two collections of essays. The awards he collected over these years are too numerous to list here, but he did win an award for turning "Being There" into a screenplay. In the movie Peter Sellers played the role of Chauncey Gardiner (that's Sellers on the cover of the book, by the way). Jerzy Kosinski died in 1991.
If you have seen the film version of this book, you already know what the story is about. Chauncey is a gardener for a wealthy old invalid referred to cryptically as the "Old Man." Poor old Chauncey doesn't have much going on upstairs; he cannot read or write, and his days are spent watching television and working in the garden. The Old Man adopted Chauncey when he was a small child, and maintains an iron grip over his life. Chauncey has never seen the outside world, never interacted with people beyond the gates of the house, or left any trace of himself in the outside world. He's a sort of modern day Robinson Crusoe, isolated on his own private island in the middle of our bustling world.
When the Old Man finally succumbs to his illnesses, Chauncey is left to his own devices in a world he has only seen on television. After a slight accident that occurs a few minutes after he leaves his cocoon, Chauncey finds himself quickly moving up in the world. He is "adopted" by Benjamin and EE Rand, a wealthy family. When Chauncey spouts a few vague aphorisms about gardening, the Rands misunderstand him and begin to believe that Chauncey is a brilliant, wealthy industrialist with intelligent insights into the business world.
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23 of 25 people found the following review helpful By "kathrynlively" on April 1, 2001
Format: Paperback
A friend recommended Jerzy Kosinski to me, so I thought I'd start with a fairly familiar title, though I have yet to see the movie. "Being There" is quite short, though the story is by no means short on style and quality. Kosinski offers a powerful, unlikely hero in Chance, whose simple philosophies on tending a garden are misinterpreted by people around them as guidance for controlling the national economy. It is amusing to read how all these well-educated, self-important people twist Chance's words to suit their own purposes and beliefs, so much that this simple-minded gardener is, in the course of a few days, one of the most admired men in the nation!
I also like Kosinski's take on the media, as presented through Chance's love for television -- he accepts a name change to Chauncey Gardiner (as accidentally heard by EE Rand), thinking that is standard for people on television to do. The scene in particular where Chance is invited on a program to speak is fun to read, as Chance wonders how he will translate physically onscreen. Though this book was written twenty years ago, it still speaks to us today as a good satire on media and American culture, and how we tend to make heroes of people who do not necessarily fit the mold. It would have been interesting to see this work translated today, with the advent of cable television and the Internet.
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13 of 13 people found the following review helpful By J C E Hitchcock on June 4, 2003
Format: Paperback
I first became aware of this book as the basis for the remarkable film starring Peter Sellers and Melvyn Douglas. Kosinski�s book, however, is just as remarkable in its own right.
The hero of the book is Chance, a mentally retarded adult who works as the gardener at the home of a wealthy retired New York lawyer. During the whole of his adult life, Chance has never left the house and garden; his only contact with the outside world is through television, which he watches obsessively. His life changes, however, when his employer dies, the house is sold and he is forced to leave. Chance is slightly injured when he is hit by a car belonging to Elizabeth Eve (�EE�), the wife of Benjamin Rand, a rich and influential Wall Street financier and a friend of the President. EE, mishearing �Chance the gardener� as �Chauncey Gardiner� and mistakenly believing Chance to be a successful businessman, invites him to stay with her and her husband at their home. A series of misunderstandings leads all concerned to believe that Chance is not only a businessman but also an economic prophet. He is invited to speak on national television where he talks about the only thing he understands, gardening. A series of platitudes about the changing of the seasons in the garden is taken to be an extended metaphor forecasting an upturn in the economy, and his supposed optimism strikes a chord with the viewing public. The book ends with the elderly, terminally ill, Rand about to name Chance as his heir and successor, and the President about to nominate him as his vice-presidential running-mate.
The book is short, a novella rather than a novel, of around 100 pages. The style is direct, simple and like a fable. It has been interpreted as a satire on the role of television in the modern age or on the American political system.
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16 of 17 people found the following review helpful By Loren D. Morrison on October 26, 2000
Format: Paperback
Chance. the gardner, "knows not whence he came." His only memories are of his room, his television set, the garden that he tends, the old man who owns the house and garden, and a cook/housekeeper. The sum of all his knowledge comes from what he sees on his television set and what he has learned tending his garden. He doesn't read. He doesn't write. He really doesn't know that there is a world outside of his garden.
When the old man dies, Chance is thrown into a world about which he knows nothing. His one advantage coming into that world is that he has the old man's hand-me-down suits which are impeccably tailored and are old enough to have come back into style.
By chance, Chance is injured by a chauffeur driven limousine belonging to a very rich and influential man. (Thank goodness for the suit he is wearing! Through no fault of his own, he looks rich and successful.) He gives his name as Chance, the gardner and it is misunderstood as Chauncey Gardiner. His vast experience in things worldly, gained from viewing television, tells him that if someone tells him that is his name then that is his name.
Whenever Chance, now Chauncey, enters into a conversation, he speaks of what he knows, the garden. Within a very short time, his replies, such as, "For everything there is a season," in response to a question about the future economic climate, are taken to be the astute observations of a brilliant man.
These meaningless utterances, coupled with his total lack of a background, make him into a media idol and, seemingly, the ideal candidate for Vice President of the United States.
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