Reviews

Steps by Jerzy Kosinski

mattleesharp's review

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4.0

Yes, this book is very sexually charged, but I'm not quite ready to declare it just some jerk-off screed that erupted from a man trapped in a too repressed era of writing. There's a lot more going on.

I found myself pretty regularly thinking back to Brief Interviews and Metropole while reading this collection of kind of related vignettes. The first because this book is without reservation focused on a pretty "bad" person, someone manipulative and insecure. The I of this book is so distant from all of the action, I sometimes forgot it was written in first person. There is this interesting conversation going on between the action and the language (and going on particularly in all of some sex-heavy italic dialogue breaks) of this book that says something about how people reconcile their inability to really make a stand for something with their desire to be heroic.

That conversation is expanded upon in the many scenes where the main character is literally unable to communicate with the people around him. Many scenes take place in countries where no one knows the language of the main character and, much like in Metropole, it leads to this desperate desire to just connect with someone no matter what about. But unlike in that book, Kosinski gives us a payoff. His main character is in sudden poverty and stranded on a foreign beach and finds himself so grateful for an apple from a pair of strangers that the entire scene becomes an orgy a page later. A scene with a bartender who doesn't speak his language leads to knowing prods from patrons eager to indulge.

In some ways this is an interesting anti-feminist piece. All of its women are helpless objects meant to either sexually satisfy the main character or hinder him from discovering himself as a whole person. But I don't think that's gratuitous for some pornographic or self indulgent reason. I think it serves to illuminate a very real crisis--the terrible understanding that sometimes we cannot even convince ourselves that there is something more to us than our actions.

rocketiza's review

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3.0

Meh. Well written, but I never really felt invested in it.

aaronlindsey's review against another edition

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4.0

An interesting, often disturbing novel. It’s more like loosely connected short stories. Some of what I just read will be in my mind for years to come.

ferdusz's review

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dark mysterious tense medium-paced

3.75

ayetomp's review

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2.0

Kind of one of the most uninspiring books I’ve read. Major TW: sexual violence against women

gmalboeuf's review

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3.0

A very refreshing breakaway from the usual books I read. The vignette form is definitely a highlight of this influential book, however, I found it very disengaging. I loved the words themselves but struggled to stay engaged with the narrative as a whole.

trve_zach's review

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There’s something interesting about the way the narrative unfurls here, but it mostly feels frivolous and edgy for its own sake. Not recommended.

pbobrit's review

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2.0

Firstly, the Kindle edition could have done with a copy editor's review, there were a number of glaring typos in the text.

This book is definitely of its time, it won the National Book Award in the late 1960s, but reading it now it is difficult to see what set it apart from other writing of the time. The text feels Henry Miller-ish in parts, and even by the time it was publish I'm sure some of the content would still have been seen to be shocking (although nothing more outlandish than things W. Burroughs wrote), but these days it seems pretty tame.

It was a quick read.

adamz24's review

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5.0

Huh. I reread this with the express hope of afterwards being able to articulate what hit me so hard about this book the first time I read it.

Now I find myself even more convinced that this is a masterpiece, yet struggling to find the words to write either an extensive or pithy summary of my reaction to it.

Naturally, I looked up Kosinski's Wikipedia page, because that's just what you do. I found that one great academic and one great author had both said these great little bits on Steps:

"the narrator of Steps... seems to be nothing more than a disembodied voice howling in some surrealistic wilderness"- Samuel Coale

"[a] collection of unbelievably creepy little allegorical tableaux done in a terse elegant voice that's like nothing else anywhere ever"- David Foster Wallace

and really, with the former quote saying much about the weird, inherent sort of creepiness and distance of the narration in Steps, and the latter providing a brilliantly concise summation of the quality of the whole thing, I don't need to write much about this. That isn't to say I won't write much about it. I might sometime.

anicea's review against another edition

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1.0

I really wanted to like this book, but vignette after vignette of obvious male sexual fantasy started to become tedious and offensive. There are a lot of women in the novel, but not once are they portrayed as anything more than a body to abuse and/or spew back phrases that would only exist in a man's imagination. A woman's first experience with oral sex: "I loved what was ejected from you: like hot wax, it was suddenly melting all over me, over my neck and breasts and stomach. I felt as though I were being christened: it was so white and pure." SERIOUSLY?!

Since a lot of content was taken from his own life, I cannot think of Kosinski in any other way than being a misogynistic asshole.