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3.79  ·  Rating details ·  2,540 Ratings  ·  208 Reviews
A portrayal of men and women both aroused and desensitized by an environment that disdains the individual and seeks control over the imagination.
Mass Market Paperback, Twelfth US Edition, 148 pages
Published 1978 by Bantam Books (first published 1968)
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1969 National Book Award winner.

Kosinski is probably best known for his novels The Painted Bird and Being There, which was made into a 1971 film starring Peter Sellers and Shirley MacLaine. But most critics agree that this book, Steps, is his best work. It's listed as a novel but it feels more like a collection of short stories, but even that doesn't describe it properly. David Foster Wallace called it "a collection of unbelievably creepy little allegorical tableaux done in a terse elegant voice
What a curious little book...

Many fans of David Foster Wallace are familiar with a short essay he wrote entitled "Overlooked," where the man Himself discusses 5 U.S. novels written after 1960 that he considers to be "direly under appreciated." I discovered this essay while reading Gass's 'Omensetter's Luck' (also on the list) which I consider to be one of the top 10 brain explodingly awesome books I've ever read. Another book on the list was David Markson's 'Wittgenstein's Mistress,' which I am
Bill  Kerwin

"Steps" starts out as a classic: brief tales of sexual exploitation and humiliation occasionally varied with anecdotes of nonsexual dominance and submission, narrated in many different settings by men (or one man?)in different professions and circumstances who share the same clinical--dare I say meditative?--first-person voice. This cold detached voice and the mystery of possible multiple narrators are the things that give the book its magic.

Then, about two-thirds of the way through the book (w
Frequently I watched the small children wobbling on their plump legs, stumbling, falling, getting up again, as though borne up by the same force that steadies sunflowers buffeted by the wind.

Controversy followed Kosinski most of his adult life, likely by design. As noted elsewhere, there remains considerable debate about K. Look elsewhere for positions on such. is a good point of departure for sifting evidence.

Anyway, Steps is a disturbing little book, o
Vit Babenco
Apr 10, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An anonymous ego of the chronicler seems to be ruled by libido. And the mind is just secondary so it merely schemes in providing libido with the new raw material…
“It was now barely light. No wind reached the lower branches of the birches, and the leaves on the bushes hung inert as though hammered out of lead. Suddenly she turned and stripped, laying her dress down on the leaves piled deep at our feet.
She faced me, gently forcing me down onto my back. As she knelt over me she seemed stocky, almos
Nov 19, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Have had this since 1997, a crusty old paperback taken for free or not much more from a neighbor's yard sale. Read some in the past but never persevered to finish. Recommended for fans of dark, violent, realist fables. Call it skewed yet scarily/stuntedly straightforward post-traumatic stress syndrome lit? Sometimes like Kafka anecdotes but never even a smidge irreal (what seem at first like humanoids are simply humans), also lacking suggestion of a spiritual side? Sometimes like Jesus' Son but ...more
Feb 15, 2013 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition

I was rereading Steps by Jerzy Kosinski. It was night. I had recently asked a friend what he thought the book was really about. I told him that the author of the biography of Kosinski I’d read had pointed out that in each section of the book, the narrator(s) either takes advantage of someone else or is taken advantage of. The memorable section involving the student who makes a map of public restrooms in a city, designating them as his ‘temples’, is perhaps an exception, but in this case it is th
Jigar Brahmbhatt
Oct 29, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
"I was traveling farther south" tells the narrator of the first vignette. This line hints as aimless traveling. Maybe he is on the run. We are not sure. We know he has considerable money with him but we are again unsure of the means with which he acquired it. He stops in one village, finds a poor peasant girl, casually asks her to run away with him at night because he thinks he can provide her a better life, and they finally elope. He makes her buy expensive cloths and accessories the next day. ...more
Nate D
Jul 15, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: humans and animals
Recommended to Nate D by: a noise, human or animal, from the barn
Brief, distressing fables of brutality, modest to vicious, and ambiguous moral order. It reminds me at times of the sheer human destruction of Last Exit to Brooklyn, but more condensed, refined, universal. Not a word is wasted, and the simple, eloquent language makes this exceedingly readable if at times difficult to absorb. DFW was evidently a fan, calling this slim set of vignettes better than all of Kosinski's other books combined, and I suspect he borrowed bits of its style and formatting fo ...more
Mar 03, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Drew by: david foster wallace
Almost a perfect cross between Céline's Journey to the End of the Night and Wallace's Brief Interviews with Hideous Men, complete with the mysterious (and creepy) protagonist and general misanthropy of the former, and the weird quasi-mystical (and, again, creepy) sexual encounters of the latter.

Both of those, however, are a little self-indulgent. Journey is long and rambling and vitriolic, and Interviews, while not as long, goes on long digressions and gets mired in self-consciousness and occasi
Jul 28, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Recommends it for: anyone interested in human behavior
From my review:

Riveting, gripping, amazing. If art is, in part, the dance between artist and audience, then Steps is art in its highest form. I found myself dancing & reacting in ways I wish I hadn't; found myself physically aroused by portions of the text that I found intellectually / psychologically repugnant. That's a neat trick, Kosinski.

In spare prose, the author takes his breathless reader (think of how your oxygen intake changed while watching 'Panic Room') on a "depraved"
Jul 16, 2007 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: adults, po-mo fans
Shelves: swords
Do you remember the game "Where's Waldo?" You can play a similar one with this (47 maybe--If I'm remembering correctly) episodic narrative: "Where's the act of consumption?"

Note: many of the vignettes are either sexual or violent, or violently sexual. The protagonist is on a quest to find a stable sense of identity in his (post)modern world. The question then becomes whether he succeeds or not.
Lee Foust
Whilst I can see how my, I dunno, 12 to 15-year-old self thought that this was really cool--as a virgin all of the "sick/perverse/degraded" sex was mysterious and the existentially alienated, detached narrators of the terse, unemotional prose and the violence was as alluring as a James Bond movie or as some of those loner-based space exploration tales of adolescent science fiction, I'm pretty amazed, at 50, that a grown man wrote this novel and that, judging from the reviews splattered all over ...more
Apr 27, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: american-fiction
Steps is like something a younger, hornier Haruki Murakami might write. You've got these terse, surreal little vignettes that are sort-of-but-not-really linked together, and all of which share this dark, creepily sexual sensibility. A bunch of odd little nothings, though not without their charms. I can't imagine what combination of substances the people who chose the national book award in 1969 must have been smoking/drinking/dropping/snorting when they picked this. Fair warning, there's bestial ...more
Sep 02, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
“Facemmo del nostro meglio per comprendere il delitto: l'assassino apparteneva alla nostra vita; non così la vittima”.

La dimensione di questi brevi racconti è la soglia del perturbante, inquietante, non familiare: frammenti di vita che turbano la pace della coscienza, nei quali una sessualità ineffabile si muove tra potenze oscure, dove a volte si manifesta la perfezione della violenza. C'è una stanza, con l'ombra di una donna, e una presenza segreta; non vieni accompagnato all'interno, l'autore
Jan 06, 2014 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: postmoderni
Passi silenziosi nel lato oscuro dell'anima

Jerzy Kosiński ha avuto una vita dura e alla fine si è arreso alla morte andandole incontro come fosse un'amante, nel mentre che cercava di venire a capo, senza riuscirci parrebbe, di quel che la vita gli aveva riservato, ha lasciato questi piccoli gioielli di cinismo, una prosa scarna, essenziale e tutto il dolore di chi ha vissuto ai margini...un insieme illuminante e impietoso, un esame al microscopio del lato più oscuro dell'animo umano...non un li
Guillermo Jiménez
Llegué a este libro por la entrada que Salon le publicó a David Foster Wallace en abril de 1999 Overlooked, donde mi héroe nos otorga breves opiniones sobre 5 novelas de los 60 que han sido “imperiosamente menospreciadas”.

Dice algo así: “ganó como un gran premio cuando fue publicada, pero ahora nadie parece recordarla; le llamamos novela , pero, en realidad es una colección de increíblemente pavorosas y un poco alegóricas viñetas, contadas con una voz elegante y tersa como no ha habido otra jamá

Let's have a toast for the douchebags
Let's have a toast for the assholes
Let's have a toast for the scumbags
Every one of them that I know.

-Kanye West Runaway

Kosinski's Steps is the literature equivalent of Kanye West's Runaway. If you simply read the lyrics of a lot of West's songs you might think that the music is simply a vapid reflection of its listeners. Especially with this one. The speaker(s) talks about his philanderous actions he commi
Lukasz Pruski
Feb 28, 2014 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
In my late teen years a stupid drinking game was popular in my native country: one was supposed to go to a party, get very drunk, and then puke on as many walls as possible, including the ceiling. I remembered that game when I was reading the first half of Jerzy Kosinski's disjoint novella "Steps". Mr. Kosinski, my compatriot, vomits repulsive prose in every direction, spewing about ugly sex, violence, and pain. "I want to make love to you when you are menstruating" is a typical example of the n ...more
Peter Landau
Jan 03, 2017 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
What a short vulgar book Jerzy Kosinski’s STEPS is, made up of brief vignettes that sort of connect in a non-narrative way to tell a story that doesn’t begin or end but stays in the middle where the action is. The action is almost universally perverse with kinky sex and violence that happens without clear relation, except in its bizarre repetition. There are chapters of a kind that begin to stand together as thematically linked to sex, religion, work, politics, etc., and how each of these forces ...more
Rene Ijzermans
Wat een koud en grimmig boek is dit, en daarom ook fascinerend. Een boek vol fragmenten die dan toch wel een samenhang blijken te hebben, maar evengoed los van elkaar kunnen worden gelezen. Geschreven na zijn aangrijpende boek "De geverfde vogel" waarin mij vooral het Joodse jongetje is bijgebleven dat ten tijde van WO 2 door Poolse platteland zwerft en stopt met praten omdat het hem teveel is geworden. Het teveel aan trauma's heeft hem letterlijk de mond gesnoerd. Stappen is in eenzelfde kale t ...more
Sep 13, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 1970-present, prose
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 nar
Diana Matei
Nov 26, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Lately, I've been reading all of Milan Kundera's books. I was at the used bookstore the other day and saw this book on one of the shelves. It looked like an easy, light read, so I bought it. I got tired of Kundera's dialogue and decided to take a reading break. I thumbed through the pages of Steps, and I couldn't stop myself. I made myself stop reading halfway through so I would have something to look forward to going home over thanksgiving break.

I don't really know what to say about this book,
Jul 31, 2012 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
there is nothing in this for me, so i gave myself permission not to finish it. i gave it the benefit of the doubt for just under half its length. it's not even a novel, it's just disconnected vignets, in the style of anais nin, and written from a very ugly perspective. the dust jacket alluded to celine and kafka and conrad and nabakov. i see none of them here. it's more like brett easton ellis if he had written erotica. it's erotica for sociopaths.

Paul Bryant
Yes, a single star, but a richly deserved one.
Özgür Daş
Kosiński, insanların maruz kaldığı durumları açık ve rahatsız edici şekilde sunuyor 'Adımlar'da.
May 01, 2011 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Steps is neither a novel nor a collection of short stories, but rather a series of untitled vignettes that may or may not be narrated by a consistent voice. The "I" in each story is clearly male, but little else is known about him; in each vignette he passionlessly details a series of events, most often culmintating in some kind of violence, usually against a woman. It is obvious that Kosinski's intent is to delineate a world in which actions mean nothing, and those acting feel nothing. The ques ...more
Dec 22, 2015 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites, polish, m-o, ebook
“What a joy to be left alone at last, not having to care about what others say or how they look at you, or how you seem to them, without having to look outside the white walls of your private sanctuary”.

Through a series of short stories and fragments of conversations Steps deprives the human nature of any morality and pushes it to the limit, analyzing the darkest instincts of the human being in the form of vengeance, hypocrisy, cruelty, cowardice, blackmail and murder. It is also said to be an a
Jan 08, 2010 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Male, female, or intersex, you will hate this book.

Remember back in the good old days when the whole country was sexually frustrated and guys who wanted to get laid wrote about how good their characters were in the sack, with the implicit understanding that it was they themselves (the authors) who knew a little more or had that special extra inch more in their pants than the next guy? Well, this book seems to be a remnant from that sad and pathetic era.

Steps is an unqualified jerkoff book, lack
Mar 28, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
probably like a lot of people, i read "the unbearable lightness of being" when i was pretty young and loved it. now i sort of doubt my judgment, especially considering that kundera replaced ayn rand as my favorite author at the time (early high school.) i have not revisited it since then.

i was titillated at the time, but kundera seems awfully vanilla in comparison to kosinski. it's a similar approach, philosophy told through sexual picaresque, but kosinski is more depraved and darker, and instea
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Kosiński was born Josef Lewinkopf to Jewish parents in Łódź, Poland. As a child during World War II, he lived in central Poland under a false identity his father gave him to use, Jerzy Kosiński. A Roman Catholic priest issued him a forged baptismal certificate. The Kosiński family survived the Holocaust thanks to local villagers, who offered assistance to Jewish Poles often at great personal risk ...more
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“Lovers are not snails; they don't have to protrude from their shells and meet each other halfway. Meet me within your own self.” 19 likes
“Had it been possible for me to fix the plane permanently in the sky, to defy the winds and clouds and all the forces pushing it upward and pulling it earthward, I would have willingly done so. I would have stayed in my seat with my eyes closed, all strength and passion gone, my mind as quiescent as a coat rack under a forgotten hat, and I would have remained there, timeless, unmeasured, unjudged, bothering no one, suspended forever between my past and my future.” 5 likes
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