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Being There

3.86  ·  Rating details ·  9,690 ratings  ·  781 reviews
A modern classic now available from Grove Press, Being There is one of the most popular and significant works from a writer of international stature. It is the story of Chauncey Gardiner - Chance, an enigmatic but distinguished man who emerges from nowhere to become an heir to the throne of a Wall Street tycoon, a presidential policy adviser, and a media icon. Truly "a man ...more
Paperback, 160 pages
Published September 15th 1999 by Grove Press (first published January 1st 1970)
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3.86  · 
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 ·  9,690 ratings  ·  781 reviews

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Glenn Russell
Apr 19, 2014 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

If you listen to audio books you will enjoy this classic performance by Dustin Hoffman. Perhaps you are familiar with the film based on the novel; if you are unfamiliar with the short novel itself, here's your chance to experience a truly insightful and compelling work of literature through the voice of an outstanding actor.

And from what author Jersy Koskinski writes in the first few pages, a reasonable take on the back-story goes like this: main character Chance’s mother died in childbirth, pr

A man's past cripples him: his background turns into a swamp and invites scrutiny!

I kind of wish I could start my reading of Kosiński with that title, alas, what's done it's done and nothing can change that. Sadly my first novel by the author and for over thirty years the only one was his (in)famous The Painted Bird. I can't even describe how I hated reading it and how repulsive it felt. I thought then about Kosiński to be the worst author I ever read, hands down. Though to tell the truth I shou
Glenn Sumi
Apr 01, 2017 rated it really liked it
Shelves: contemp-classics
Kosinski's 1970 satire about a simple gardener who rises to become an influential political pundit, commentator and presidential advisor is considered a classic, and rightly so.

It's especially relevant today, when the level of nonsensical wankery by our leaders or so-called celebrities has reached an art form. Chance/Chauncey's "wisdom" he dispenses from his knowledge of gardening or his constant watching of TV is consistently amusing – as are the reactions of the people around him. Kosinski wri
Aug 30, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Kosinski left his native Poland for his adopted American homeland in the 1950s. Being There is his first attempt, in a novel, to reflect upon the USA and its infatuation with mass media.

Our focus is on an early middle-aged male named Chance. How he got this name; what Kosinski means by choosing it; and, how it morphs into Chauncy are major tent poles holding up this plot.

Chance is a foundling who has lived in a rich man’s house all his life. By “lived in a rich man’s house,” Kosinski tells us th
MJ Nicholls
Aug 26, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Peter Sellers’s last (and best?) performance was in Being There—directed by Hal Ashby with Kosiński’s screenplay—one of my favourite American tragicomedies. The original novella compresses the meat of the movie into straightforward and simple chapters, mimicking the simple mind of Chance, the anonymous simpleton whose plain-talking homilies propel him into the top of American life within four days. The film brings the character of Chance into being through Peter Sellers, who expands upon the sim ...more
Jun 13, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Chance is a gardener in the house of the "Old Man", a job that he has had for as long as he can remember. Chance is uneducated, he cannot read or write, and he has never been outside the garden. He watches television obsessively.

Then the old man dies. His executors close up the old man's estate and send Chance out into the world. He is wholly unprepared.

A series of improbable events propel Chance into the upper echelons of American society. He meets business leaders, the President, foreign amba
Dec 14, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary
At a scant 128 pages, this is a small book with enormous implications. Although written in the seventies (with a movie starring Peter Sellers in the eighties), the storyline is very prescient today. Before reading this slim novel, think about the myriad of ways people continue to infer incorrectly important issues, or how they get their information pertaining an issue.

A slender gem that needs to be read by all.

Feb 15, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Kosinski was one of my instructors in college. He taught a seminar on Camus and Sartre.

I remember he said, "The only moment of true freedom I ever experience was on airplane suspended between the two collectives."

The movie version was excellent but with much of the thematic weight of the book missing. And it's not that the book is too voluminous. That part is just unfilmable.
I will concentrate more on the background to this novella, than the actual story. Many others indulged in the meaning of the ethical message in their reviews.

This is a novella, published for the first time in 1970. Being There was meant as a satire, a parody of politics, media and the promiscuity of the era. A simpleton is thrown into the world of powerful politics and media scrutiny and becomes the ultimate flavor of the moment.

The content of this novel baffled me. My instincts made me wonder
Nov 28, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Very different from other novels by Kosinski. After the death of his employer, Chance, the gardener, is forced to leave the mansion where he lived all his life - and he has never left it before. Unaccustomed to the booming City and lively street, he is jostled by a car. The woman travelling in the car offer to take him into her house, so her doctor can take care of him. While Chance gets back to health, both the woman and her husband start discovering extraordinary qualities that he posesses.
Aug 16, 2011 rated it it was amazing
If you haven't read this short little gem, read it now, then go to some sort of republocrat/conservative/teaparty party and try some of Chance's minimalist conversation techniques. While people are discussing debt ceilings and budget re-toolings, respond with things like "Tilling has its place, but I've always believed in allowing the subsoil to settle." I'm sure you'll be invited to visit various yachts and private estates, as well as being introduced to their unmarried sons and daughters...
Nathan "N.R." Gaddis
Aug 26, 2012 marked it as filmed
I read Being There in my infancy, prior most likely to my familiarity with Herr Heidegger.

I saw the film last night, the one staring Peter Sellars.

(view spoiler) no matter what Melvyn Douglas's granddaughter (on the dvd extras) has to say. It is indeed possible to entirely, and at an angle of 180°, misinterpret a piece of literature. Sometimes one needn't pay attention because one always already knows what They say and so does one.
Nov 26, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: anyone interested in satire
Recommended to Ms.pegasus by: selection of local book club
Shelves: fiction
A somber message underlies Kosinsky's playful, deceptively simple fable. He sketches out a preposterous situation. The main character has spent his entire life confined to his room in a mansion and its walled garden. He was born there. His sole occupation is tending the garden. His sole view of the world is from watching the TV in his room. That complacent existence is disrupted when the recluse who dwells in the mansion dies.

Although Kosinski tells this story with a third person voice, the poin
Brendan Monroe
Very low-IQ guy who spends all his time watching television is mistaken by many for a genius and thrust into political power.

But enough about Donald Trump.

"Being There" is the classic story — further popularized by the classic film — of Chance, the (unemployed??) gardener of a wealthy fellow who at the beginning of our story has just up and died, leaving Chance to fend for himself on the street. Or, that is, he would have been left to fend for himself on the street except that on the way down th
Michael Perkins
Aug 05, 2018 rated it really liked it
Chauncey Gardiner is born and raised in a house that he never leaves. His only contacts with humans are occasional encounters with a half-crazy maid, a crippled, senile old man confined in a room upstairs, and a television set.

He watches television constantly.

In middle age Gardiner is suddenly thrown out of the house into the city. Attempting to deal with a world which he has seen only as reproduced on television, he tries to apply what he has learned from the set. He adopts television behavio
Paul E. Morph
Jul 16, 2015 rated it it was amazing
I'd never read any Kosinski before and only bought this book as I'm a fan of Dustin Hoffman. As you'd expect from such an accomplished actor, Hoffman's narration is superb; I'd have him read all my books to me if I could! What came as a pleasant surprise, though, was that the story was as good as the performance. It's a really touching, funny story and my only complaint would be that there wasn't enough of it. It could have been twice as long and I still wouldn't have wanted it to end. I would d ...more
Mar 03, 2013 rated it liked it
A simple but beautiful story. At the same time it is a biting satire on the American media, the political system, and in general, on the state of human relationships. Of course, I also loved the film version.
Lukasz Pruski
I saw Hal Ashby's movie "Being There" about 20 years ago and I still remember the huge impression it made on me. Peter Sellers was magnificent as Chance the gardener. I have just finished reading Jerzy Kosinski's book, on which the movie is based, and I find the book much weaker than the movie.

Kosinski's short novella is a one-gimmick book: a simple gardener who has never been outside of his employer's residence, who knows first-hand only about gardening, who learns about people and the world fr
Aug 26, 2008 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literary, fiction
You can Google this book and come up with numerous learned and not-so-learned papers discussing it, and this might lead you to think it significant. You might be swayed by people who call it a postmodern masterpiece or an existential gem, or by the fact that it was made into a film. But look at Kosinski's prose: this particular emperor is stark naked. In short, this novel has a good premise and is full of good ideas, amateur in their execution.

A back-of-the-book puff piece in my copy cites "a cr
Sep 10, 2008 rated it liked it
It's interesting that I've picked up and read this story right now in view of McCain's selection of Palin, a virtual unknown, and her rapid escallation to the front page of the country's newspapers. That's almost exactly what occurred to Chance, the name of a man who had served without pay as a wealthy man's gardener until he suddenly found himself without a job or a family when the man died. While roaming the streets deciding what to next, a chauffeur backing into a parking place, pinned his le ...more
Oct 23, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: novella
I am still in the process of adding books from years ago and came across Being There. I am not sure how this would read today but on it's release it was a favorite (and then a movie version). I remember enjoying this very much and to this day those of us of a certain age can use Chauncy Gardner as an adjective and still get a chuckle. The media and government were dimly viewed in that era and so much of fiction at that time reflected an almost cynical society. This was when Vidal, Irving, Roth, ...more
So, there was a German film in the mid-1970s, a Werner Herzog-directed movie of cult status titled, The Mystery of Kaspar Hauser, based supposedly on a true incident from hundreds of years ago in which a man, a kind of idiot, suddenly appeared in a town and his origins remained a mystery. In the film, Hauser is shown to be raised in a dark, prison-like condition, cut off completely from the ways of the world and socialization. Raised like some factory farm animal. Then one day his caretaker dies ...more
aPriL does feral sometimes
What an awful, horrific, hater's book! Jerzy Kosinski, the author, must have had a bad year going to meet-and-grins in high society. Nobody is ok in this book. In Kosinski's bleak, black satire, he blasts away at civilized humanity, and at our poseur thinking selves (avatars is what I actually want to say). In truth, the hidden extreme self-involvement and the resulting recursive solipsism driving every single human being, in the author's opinion, is an ugly thing.

The book was written in 1971,
Jun 09, 2013 rated it it was ok
In 78-79, when I was in 9th grade history (or world studies?) this book was mentioned as being significant (along with, if memory serves, On the Beach, Ulysses, and I think Brave New World ) presumably because of its cultural impact. Strangely, this class was the only place I'd ever heard the book mentioned to that point, and then never heard about it again until the movie came out. Didn't see the movie. I found a 99 cent paperback copy at a book sale last year, and just pulled it off the shelf ...more
Jan 03, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
This review focuses solely on the book, as it's been decades since I've seen the film. Chance the gardner is used to prove the point that the clothes make the man. The first impression is of a neatly tailored shirt and suit, excellent shoes, a briefcase that is in excellent shape if quite a few years old. (The suit fits, of course, because Chance is likely the bastard son of their previous owner). Considering that impression and the location (the home of a wealthy man, a UN conference, etc.), pe ...more
Apr 29, 2008 rated it it was amazing
This book is simple, and really doesn't need to have too many words to be profound. The same can be said of sweet, simple-minded Chauncy Gardiner, the main character. At first, I wasn't sure whether he was sane or insane. I quickly surmised that he was, at the very least, more sane than Yours Truly. It was a total treat to read his reactions to the 'normal', sophisticated, cosmopolitan people he interacted with. I was reminded that sometimes we CAN just look at the flowers, or even the TV, witho ...more
Jul 16, 2013 rated it really liked it
I really enjoyed this entertaining quick read. Because I had seen the film many years ago I had the Peter Sellers image in my mind throughout which only added to my enjoyment of the book.
Yair Ben-Zvi
Jan 24, 2012 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
The more of Kosinski I read the more of an anomaly he seems. The Painted Bird was a furious work of cathartic brilliance, brimming with a searing hatred juxtaposed with an innocence that, while certainly changed and even tainted by the overabundance of evil and sin in the world, still retained, if not its power, than at least its presence.

But then I read this book which feels worlds apart from the previous novel. Now, I know that Kosinksi was accused of plagiarism concerning the painted bird. Wh
Aug 29, 2015 rated it really liked it
BEING THERE. (1970). Jerzy Kosinski. *****.
I first read this novel by Kosinski forty-some years ago when it first came out. I thought it was a terrific novel back then, and continue to think so on second reading. The story of Chance, the Gardiner, will stay with you forever after you have read this. Chance, or Chauncey which his name was modified to, represented the simplest form of a sentient human being. He was raised and continued to exist with a minimum of sensory input about what was going
Oct 21, 2011 rated it really liked it
At only 140 pages, this was a very quick read but fun.

Chance was sheltered from the outside world his entire life. He never left the house of his employer except to tend the garden in the backyard. He cannot read or write and spends his off time watching TV. When his employer dies he is left homeless and thrust into the outside world. After an accident and a few gardening metaphors he is thrust into America's financial and political society.

I found this book incredibly humorous. I loved the iron
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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
“Life is a state of mind.” 26 likes
“- Growth has its season. There are spring and summer, but there are also fall and winter. And then spring and summer again. As long as the roots are not severed, all is well and all be well.” 16 likes
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