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Blind Date (Kosinski, Jerzy) Paperback – February 17, 1998
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He seems to invest in people's desires to court chance and fate, and wanders from incident to incident. The book is filled with a seemingly random series of crimes, sexual liaisons, and intrigue. Many of them to hinge upon unforeseen results such as when he improves the speech text of the wife of a foreign official in order to have political prisoners released, only to find that the credited speechwriter was tortured and placed in solitary confinement afterward. He befriends a promiscuous divorcee in a small town filled with resentful small-town people and then is forced to stay to testify of her infidelity when he's threatened to be framed for a murder. His baggage delays a visit to LA and he misses being at the scene of a crime in which he likely would have been killed as well. He commits murder a couple times in the book, and they are of a political nature, including a rigged ski lift in which he barely feels the affects moments after they die, and later kills a NY clerk who's taping traveling diplomats, brutally with a sword and hammer in a bathhouse. He gets away without a second thought, saying the memories are like "old Polaroid snapshots; no negative, photographer unknown, camera thrown away."
Yet he shows compassion for the many women he meets, testing the relationships as to who depends upon whom, who is "in charge" emotionally or financially. He meets women he thought he knew after many years, and becomes obsessed with women he can never know. In one case she refuses to reveal anything about herself to him (Serena) which he agrees to, relying on chance whether she will or will not call on him, and when.
Unlike "Cockpit" however the character of George Levanter is not in complete control of his surroundings or actions. He is constantly surprised by what transpires out of his control, and for every "success" at doing something, whether legal or a sexual conquest, the people around him surprise or disappoint him. The meetings are random and unpredictable, like "blind dates" he says.
The book seems to circle around the concept of pre-determination without finally stating or exploring it beyond a series of well-written and fascinating contrasting experiences, barely connected. He seems to barely learn anything, simply experience.
The tone is pure Kosinski, with sharp and minimalist writing but with great detail, a smattering of violence and sex and a determined reluctance to inner monologues. Also, this book seems to foreground the shifting identity of Kosinski's fiction, and his own role within it. The famous philosopher Jacques Monod (who was a friend of JK) appears here, at a scene at Cannes, where Kosinski really hung out with him. There is also a barely fictionalized version of the Sharon Tate murders and the incident in which Kosinski claimed he would have been there but his luggage went missing for a day and he was delayed in NY. There are also many scenes on Swiss ski slopes where Kosinski was known to spend a lot of time as well as a marriage by the lead character (Levanter) of a very rich heiress who proceeds to get sick and die, similar to Kosinski's first marriage, bringing up a discussion of whether a man of low means should be supported or "kept" by his rich wife. (This was apparently very much a topic in Kosinski's life and a version of this dilemma occurs earlier in the book with another couple as well.)
What happened to Kosinski and what's happening to the characters is always a shifting question in his work. What is fiction and what actually happened?
The book is also obsessed with identity. There is a certain amount of lip service paid to whether he is defining himself by what he tries to do or how people treat him, whether he is in charge of his own fate, or the girl is, whether he can predict outcomes of violent or politically motivated incidents, or if he must try to enjoy what happens to him without asking questions.
He does not ask many questions. The shifts from violent murders to sexual conquests to explorations of class in jet-set European settings builds a compelling thematic read that does not seem able (or even willing) to resolve its concerns. It is finally a looser, troubling, fascinating piece that advances the (well-written) excesses of "Cockpit" to actually question why things happen and how much or if it matters.
If I were to go into the discrediting of the facts of whether or not he wrote his own books, it would be simple to say that the New York Times article proved that there was a unity of voice, and most people quoted by the Vanity Fair article said they were misquoted. Feel free to read the works of Kosinski knowing that you're reading the works of a man that had his own words, and his own thoughts--some very dark thoughts, but his own--and who was a great writer of literature.
Levanter, from an early age becomes an expert in the special allure of womanhood. He learns the subtle art of seduction, definitely including the ins and outs of how to make women happy. Levanter is also initiated early into photography and travel. Part if his experience brings Levanter to Manhattan, Los Angeles, Paris and to a number of European capitals. Levanter's skills introduce him to prostitutes as well as women married to wealthy corporate officials. Much of Levanter's education also covers the seemier side of life and include those individuals whom most people would rarely encounter. Imagine, for example, a man referring to his member as a tumor.
I must warn potential readers that the last sections of this loosely structured novel are very violent and bloody. While I did thoroughly enjoy and recommend _Blind Date_, I cannot say that it would necessarily satisfy the squeemish.
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The only the real life of Kosinski is as strange as his fiction.Read more