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Being There Paperback – September 20, 1999
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Four girls on a trip to Paris suddenly find themselves in a high-stakes game of Truth or Dare that spirals out of control. Learn More
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From the Publisher
"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 the Hardcover edition.
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
Instead, finally reading this thin but ambitious effort showed me again that good writing trumps good cinema almost every time.
To be sure, the film is good cinema. And the talented duo of Peter Sellers and Shirley McLean are so convincing in their silver screen roles that it is hard to imagine the characters they portray looking and sounding any different than the way they were played in the film (my effort to disassociate them from the story wasn't helped by the fact that my edition of the book has Mr. Sellers larger than life on its cover).
Yet the book takes the story to another level. Chance, the main character, is still a fortunate simpleton, But in the book author Jerzy Kosinski can reveal what is happening in his head, the swirling and disconcerting mystery that even the most obvious events seem to someone like him. These passages add an unexpected depth and darkness to the story, which is without most of the comic relief so prominent in the film.
The end result is a book that isn't the wry comedy with precision timing I expected after knowing the film so well but rather a biting and trenchant satire about the culture of modern media, politics, and business, and of the gullible nature of a people far too eager to follow anyone they think may be willing to lead.
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
If you haven't read it, this is a classic, although much as I hate to admit it, this might be one of the very few cases where the movie is as good or better than the book. Read morePublished 4 months ago by Camp Runamok
What’s more fun than showing economic and political elites to be in reality total boobs? That’s the idea behind Jerzy Kosinski’s Being There (1970), which later became a hit movie... Read morePublished 5 months ago by M. Buzalka
I first enjoyed “Being There” when I saw the excellent film with Peter Sellers. Years later my daughter was reading the book for school and, curious, I picked it up when she... Read morePublished 7 months ago by D. Scott
While it is interesting to read a satire that deals in the transformation of a recluse to become a celebrity and potential candidate to high office, it is important to note that... Read morePublished 8 months ago by Boondoggie
Liked it better than painted bird and am looking forward to reading more of his work b.c. it is so captivatingPublished 8 months ago by andrew vinson