Wednesday, March 5, 2014

Blind DateBlind Date by Jerzy Kosiński
My rating: 2 of 5 stars

Jerzy Kosinski's "Blind Date" has greatly disappointed me. Perhaps even more than "The Devil Tree" that I have reviewed recently. I have yet to read "The Painted Bird" and "Being There" (presumably his best books), but based on the two mediocre novels, I am not awed by my compatriot's work. Mr. Kosinski clearly has two obsessions: with the rich and famous people and with sex. The latter can be forgiven; it has driven the work of many artists. However, the former is indefensible - it makes large portions of Kosinski's prose quite suitable for celebrity tabloids.

The protagonist of the story is George Levanter, an émigrée from Eastern Europe, and a rich investor (whatever the word means). The story is told in an episodic style - vignettes from various periods of his life are arranged in random order. There is a lot of Kosinski in Levanter: the Eastern European background, past struggles with Communist regime, a marriage to an extremely rich woman, and the sexual escapades of a very handsome and supremely confident man. The novel takes its title from an episode about horrible activities that Levanter participated in as a teenager. I have found these pages truly painful to read and their cruelty and brutality gratuitous.

Many episodes involve real people: we meet Stalin's daughter, Wojciech Frykowski, Jacques Monod, Charles Lindbergh, and Abigail Folger. We are shown glimpses of one of the most notorious murders in history, peppered with Kosinski's trademark sexual references. Some of the episodes are so mind-bogglingly incongruous and lame that one might suspect the author did not have a wastebasket.

In a rare deep insight Kosinski writes "Civilization is the result of sheer chance plus a thousand or two exceptional men and women of ideas and action." That's a true and profound statement, and Kosinski shows that despite the total randomness of life, determined people can achieve some of their goals. Yet the novel could be so much better if only it were not so focused on celebrities and details of sex life. A destitute Michael K. from Coetzee's novella is much more interesting than all Kosinski's billionaires put together. Coetzee's prose is often very painful to read as well, but the pain is spiritually awakening, while reading Kosinski's prose makes me feel soiled.

One and three quarter stars.

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