Audie Award Nominee, Best Solo Narration, 2013
Jerzy Kosinski’s clever parable of a naive man thrust into the modern world is more pointed now than ever. Academy Award winner Dustin Hoffman (Rain Man, The Graduate), perhaps best known for his portrayals of vulnerable characters and antiheroes, gives an understated and exemplary performance of this satiric look at the unreality of American media culture.
Chance, the enigmatic gardener, becomes Chauncey Gardiner after getting hit by a limo belonging to a Wall Street tycoon. The whirlwind that follows brings Chance to his new status of political policy advisor and possible vice presidential candidate. His garden-variety political responses, inspired by television, become heralded as visionary, and he is soon a media icon due to his unknown background and vague, yet appealing, conversational nature. Being There was adapted into an Academy Award-winning film, starring Peter Sellers as Chance, in 1979.
Being There is part of Audible’s A-List Collection, featuring the world’s most celebrated actors narrating distinguished works of literature that each star helped select. For more great books performed by Hollywood’s finest, click here.
©1971 Jerzy Kosinski (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
Consistently funny little story, which smartly doesn't overstay its welcome and avoids all potential pitfalls of self-seriousness. Hoffman personifies the main character perfectly. Definitely makes me want to see the film again. [AUDIBLE]
average. book great narration
I bought this book on a Daily Deal with no knowledge of the story. Dustin Hoffman was perfect for this book. This was a pretty good book but i honestly think Hoffman took it from a 2* to a 4*. I cant remember a book that was as positively affected by a narrator.
Maybe to a fan of Dustin Hoffman, or of the movie.
Sometimes I think it's sacrilege to suggest to literary types that a book is inferior to the movie adaptation, but every now and then it's true. It's true here.
I liked the story and man ascending by circumstance. Dustin Hoffman's style lended a warm reality to the story.
This charming and thought-provoking story was most famously portrayed by Peter Sellers in the movie of the same name. I have always loved the possibilities - is Chance purely a simple man whose words translate for other into deep contemplations or is he truly singularly insightful. Mr. Hoffman's performance breathed believable life into Chance. Great listen! Try this one with a first-time audiobook listener.
I love reading and listening to books, especially fantasy, science fiction, children's, historical, and classics.
Of indeterminate paternity, ethnicity, and age, Chance has lived his entire life in the large house of a wealthy old man who for some unknown reason took him in as an infant orphan. Since before there was television, Chance has lived in his bedroom, leaving it only to do his work tending to the old man's extensive garden. He's never been sick, never seen a dentist, and has never spoken to anyone apart from the old man a few times and the old man's maid and a visiting worker or two. Apart from gardening, his only occupation is watching television, and his understanding of human affairs and his generic accent have been shaped by TV shows. "Plants were like people," Chance thinks. "They needed care to live, to survive their diseases, and to die peacefully. Yet plants were different from people. No plant is able to think about itself or able to know itself; there is no mirror in which the plant can recognize its face; no plant can do anything intentionally: it cannot help growing, and its growth has no meaning, since a plant cannot reason or dream." For Chance, the television is the mirror by which he can recognize his face, finding it in the faces of the actors on the TV, believing that their characters are more like him than unlike him, believing that he can change himself by changing the channels.
Chase's safe, hermetic world defined by watching TV and gardening comes to an abrupt end when the old man dies and he must leave his garden of Eden and enter the world outside, recession-era America of circa 1970. What happens to Chase--and how Chase happens to that world--makes up the rest of Jerzy Kosinksi's short novel Being There (1970). Chase is a simple-minded, illiterate man who cannot even write his own name and doesn't know the identity of his parents, a handsome innocent who appeals to other "normal" people who, unconsciously using him as he uses the TV, see themselves reflected in his face and in his unintentionally gnomic phrases relating to gardening that they take for wisdom. Kosinsky is exposing the nature of identity and isolation in our modern world, in which millions of people watch the same TV shows and gain the illusion that they know the actors and characters when really they're just looking at themselves in a mirror. He is examining the nature of politics and mass media and fame. And he's doing it through the lens of an odd everyman who in a sense is no man, for the lack of documentation from his past and identity nearly call into question his very existence. Through his contact with "real" people in the outside world and their misapprehensions about him, Chance gains a new identity as Chauncey Gardiner, but this seems more likely to wither on the vine than to take root.
Kosinsky writes all this with the hypnotically simple and graceful prose of a fable. And as one character says at one point, "It is only by accepting fables as reality sometimes that we may advance a little way along the path of power and peace."
The audiobook read by Dustin Hoffman is appealing. Hoffman is a deliberate, sensitive, clear reader, almost revealing a hint of amused wonder at Chance's existence. It is a reading by a consummate professional actor who understands the book and Chance's character. Apart from some foreign diplomats, he doesn't change his voice much to assume different characters, but rather modulates it to enhance the emotions of the various situations.
It all sounds great. And yet. Perhaps it's because I had seen the film version of the novel with Peter Sellers, but the longer I proceeded into the short novel, the more impatient I began finding myself, as if being forced to listen to a joke-story that lasts too long. There is perhaps one too many sex scene and perhaps one too many VIP party scene. Should the novel either be shorter or longer? The ending left me in a lurch, as though I'd missed a step, and though I went back and listened to it again, I still felt something missing somehow. Was it me? Was Kosinsky too subtle in the end? Or did he end without knowing how to end? Hmmm.
Report Inappropriate Content