In one word: Wow.
This book is definitely not for everyone. Because it’s weird. Very weird.
It’s stark, shocking, in-your-face.
But better than that, it’s thought-provoking.
The format is refreshingly-odd to what I am use to reading – typical novels. Instead, Steps is a collection of short autobiographical vignettes, written in a very interesting manner.
Blurbs on Kosinski’s Steps
One review on Amazon says:
And its crowning prose achievement is the outrageously pregnant concision, like Kafka’s work, but in a way that seems even less possible to replicate. I wish I knew how he did it.
However, the book is not for the overly-sensitive. The blurb:
Jerzy Kosinski’s classic vision of moral and sexual estrangement brilliantly captures the disturbing undercurrents of modern politics and culture. In this haunting novel, distinctions are eroded between oppressor and oppressed, perpetrator and victim, narcissism and anonymity. Kosinski portrays men and women both aroused and desensitized by an environment that disdains the individual and seeks control over the imagination in his unforgettable and immensely provocative work.
After reading a short piece in the book, I usually had to set it aside.
How the hell did I just vividly imagine that scene when he gave so little descriptive detail? Did he intend mere face value? Or are the meat and potatoes at a deeper level and on a different island? Why am I unsettled by this? Was the shock necessary? And so on…
And I LOVE media that does that – Make you THINK.
For a very brief taste, here’s a less shocking but no less thought-provoking, short vignette from the book.
A short vignette from Steps
I telephoned her after my return, but she wasn’t at home. Finally I reached her and arranged to meet her for lunch. She piled me with all the usual questions: How had the trip been? What had I done? Where had I stayed? Whom had I met?… I gave her a full account and then asked what she had been doing in the city during the past few days.
She told me that she had gone to the baths to keep the appointment I had made for her. She had been expecting a masseuse, but there she was told that the masseur I had sent was waiting. She felt very uneasy, she said, but didn’t want to embarrass me by refusing him.
“But why did you send a man? Did you have any particular reason?”
“None besides the massage. Did you enjoy it?”
“He was very efficient. He seemed to know exactly what he was doing.”
“Then you have no complaints?”
“Why did you feel so uneasy?”
“There was something he was doing which I didn’t known how to accept.”
“But you did accept it?”
“I had no choice. All I could have done was to leave.”
“Did you leave?”
“No, I stayed for the whole session.”
“Did you say anything to him? No, you allowed his hands to do whatever they were doing.”
“The way you say that makes me feel you knew in advance what he would try to do. If that is so, why did you choose him?”
“I wanted to know what you would do: how you would behave in that sort of situation.”
“How I would behave? Don’t you think it was far more important for you to prevent him from behaving as he did? After all, you know me very well.”
“I sent him to you on purpose, because I know his hands. Tell me, did you get any relief?”
“They were not his hands any more. Somehow, during the massage, the thought occurred to me they were your hands. I suppose that’s what you really wanted.”
If you can hang with crazy, stand a little shock and dig some urging to thought…
Pick up a copy of Steps and give it a read; you’ll be glad you did.
As an interesting aside…The first website I ever built was a horrible lil thing, way back when, hosted on a free site covered with adverts, etc. And it was called “Steps to Insanity”. The line between genius and madman, my friend, is thin indeed.
WARNING: Multiple reviews on Amazon.com say that the eBook version is absolutely horrible; you may want to go with the paperback.