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Steps ()

National Book Award Winners (1969)

    In 1969, the well-known writer Jerzy Kosinski published a novel, Steps, which won the National
    Book Award. In 1975, a freelance writer named Chuck Ross was convinced that unknown writers
    just didn't have a chance to have a novel accepted. To test his theory, Ross typed out the first
    twenty-one pages of Steps and sent them out to four publishers, using the pseudonym "Erik
    Demos." All four rejected the sample. In 1977, Ross typed out the entire book and, again using the
    name "Erik Demos," sent it to ten publishers and thirteen literary agents. One of the publishers was
    Random House, which had originally published Steps in 1969. The manuscript was neither
    recognized nor accepted by any publishers or literary agents, including Random House, which used
    a form rejection letter. That made twenty-seven rejections for a book that had won an important
    literary prize!
        -Gloria T. Delamar, Getting Rejected? Feeling Dejected? (Philadelphia WritersĂ­ Conference, Inc.)

Upon reading the novel, the 70's editors appear to have made the better decision : not to publish.  The book is little more than a catalogue of one man's often violent sexual fantasies.  I know, I know, it's supposed to be some kind of fable about how the brutality of modern life is manifested in this one victim's sex life.  However, loathe as I am to defend modernity, I don't think you can blame totalitarian government, criminal violence and the other social pathologies of the 20th Century for your need to objectify your menagerie of lovers.  Here is a chilling statement from the book, one that nicely sums up much of the sexual revolution :

    [B]eyond you and me together, I see myself in our love-making.  It is this vision of myself as your
    lover I wish to retain and make more real.

Okay, so you can argue that this is the essential point Kosinski's trying to make, and I do nearly find it compelling.  But, as I mentioned in my review of Painted Bird, he is just too fascinated by scenes of rape and other forms of degradation (here he adds bestiality) for the reader to accept that they are integral to the plot.  Instead, the reader gets the unsettling feeling that the author is offering a too revealing glimpse of his own warped obsessions.

I don't know about anyone else, but I can think of nothing less interesting than reading about another person's disturbed, and therefore disturbing, sexual predilections.  I have enough difficulty handling my own, admittedly odd, passion for Margaret Thatcher, that Iron Lady of my fevered dreams…


Grade: (D+)


Book-related and General Links:
    -ENCYCLOPAEDIA BRITANNICA : "jerzy kosinski"
    -PROFILE :  In Novels and Life, a Maverick and an Eccentric (MERVYN ROTHSTEIN, NY Times)
    -Literary Research Guide: Jerzy Kosinski (1933 - 1991)
    -Jerzy Kosinski (1933-91)(American Literature on the Web)
    -Jerzy Kosinski Home Page
    -Jerzy Kosinski Virtual Ave
    -Kosinski Web Page
    -Jerzy Kosinski Chronology
    -LINKS :  Resources for Jerzy Kosinski (Engaged Learning Project)
    -ARCHIVES : "jerzy kosinski" (NY Review of Books)
    -ESSAY : Historical Analysis of Jerzy Kosinski's The Painted Bird
    -ESSAY : Jerzy Kosinski's Peculiar Literary Fascination With Transsexual Women  (Dallas Denny,
    -ESSAY : The Dialectics of Getting There:  Kosinski's Being There and the Existential Anti-Hero (Scott C. Holstad, Department of English, California State University)
    -ESSAY : Jerzy Kosinski :  Writing by Chance and Necessity (William Gallo)
    -REVIEW : Jun 1, 1967 Neal Ascherson: Chronicles of the Holocaust, NY Review of Books
       Treblinka by Jean-Francois Steiner and Preface by Simone de Beauvoir
       The Painted Bird by Jerzy Kosinski
       They Fought Back: The Story of the Jewish Resistance in Nazi Europe
       Resistance Against Tyranny edited by Eugene Heimler
       The Murderers Among Us: The Wiesenthal Memoirs by Simon Wiesenthal
    -REVIEW : February 27, 1969 D.A.N. Jones: Lean Creatures, NY Review of Books
       Steps by Jerzy Kosinski
       Up by Ronald Sukenick
       Tell Me That You Love Me, Junie Moon by Marjorie Kellogg
       Yellow Flowers in the Antipodean Room by Janet Frame
    -REVIEW : Jul 1, 1971 V.S. Pritchett: Clowns, NY Review of Books
       Love in the Ruins by Walker Percy
       Being There by Jerzy Kosinski
    -REVIEW : of  By  PINBALL. By Jerzy Kosinski (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of PINBALL By Jerzy Kosinski (Benjamin DeMott, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of The Hermit of 69th Street By Jerzy Kosinski  (WALTER GOODMAN, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of THE HERMIT OF 69th STREET The Working Papers of Norbert Kosky. By Jerzy Kosinski (John Calvin Batchelor, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography. By James Park Sloan (Christopher Lehmann-Haupt, NY Times)
    -REVIEW : of JERZY KOSINSKI A Biography. By James Park Sloan (Louis Begley, NY Times Book Review)
    -REVIEW : of Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography. By James Park Sloan (D. G. Myers, First Things)
    -REVIEW : of Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography by James Park Sloan (Steven E. Alford)
    -REVIEW : of  Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography by James Park Sloan (LA Times)
    -REVIEW : of  Jerzy Kosinski: A Biography. By James Park Sloan (Edward Neuert, Salon)
    -BOOK LIST : Overlooked : Five direly underappreciated U.S. novels >1960 (DAVID FOSTER WALLACE, Salon)

    -REVIEW : of Being There (1979) (Pedro Sena)

    -AWARDS : National Book Award Winners