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.
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©1971 Jerzy Kosinski (P)2012 Audible, Inc.
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.
An avid reader who works too much to actually read in the traditional manner she now consumes audiobooks at her job, driving, and running.
At the core, this is a simple tale of misunderstandings, miscommunications, and mistaken identities. Yet, despite the sparse prose, this story is anything but simple. As in the tradition of all satire, Kosinski delivers a story that for its humorous depictions of naive deceptions actually delivers a sharp, if not deep, cut against our society. What makes this classic satire is how relevant and relatable this story is over 4 decades later.
In sense, this is a story about identity and what makes our identity. In a world where our names define us and anchor us to society, the main character, who goes by Chance, has no real name. He goes by Chance because that is what they call him, and when he meets EE and her husband, he goes by Chauncey Gardiner because that's what they end up calling him. To himself the name is inconsequential. His needs and wants are simple: gardening and television. This simplicity is completely unimaginable to the rest of the characters in the novel and their lack of comprehension on this fact is where most of the deception ends up lying.
In a way, Chance is the perfect innocent. He is the blank Adam who never ate from the Tree of Knowledge and thus knows no other way to be than the gardener that he was raised to be. He tends to his garden and his only true companion is his television, and although he is not completely isolated from other humans, it's a cold interaction that he has with them. The Old Man is the detached and uncaring 'god' of Chance's garden, the maid a distant servant who tends to the physical needs but does nothing to nourish Chance's soul. It is only the brief mention of an old gardener that suggests that Chance ever had anyone spend any type of focused attention on him. And even that interaction was more of a temple priest passing on the sacred duty to his new replacement. There is never any mention of love or warmth that would lead to the growth of the soul and mind. Everyone else simply exists for specific purposes and that is all.
With such stunted growth, Chance makes a perfect mirror. He has no knowledge of the world and, more importantly, he has no knowledge of himself, and thus he can only imitate the behaviors of others and speak honestly of the limited realm of his interests--gardening and television. The interesting twist is that this naivety and ignorance appeals to people who superimpose their own desires and agendas onto Chance. He is a mirror that reflects back only what they want to see--and for that they love him. Chance allows people to indulge in their narcissism by passively accepting whatever labels and categories they assign him.
Although this isn't the greatest of the classics of our time, the scary implications and critiques it makes about our society now, and human nature in general, makes it quite worth the read or listen.
I did not expect this to be sexually explicit. Dustin Hoffman did a great job but the direction that the story took in the end ruined it for me.
This is the story of how Chance, a simple person who just wants to tend his garden, becomes viewed very differently by many people. Once the media became involved, Chance is viewed as a sex symbol, a scholar of Russian literature, a brave person who admits he doesn't read the NY Times or any other paper, and a financier. This has all transpired just because Chance is bring himself: a gardener who hasn't left home before now and who cannot read and write; his view of the outside world comes from what he sees on TV.
I would have liked more about his back story; although you can guess as to who his father is, it is never actually stated. I liked the ending; to me, it showed that no matter what happened around him, Chance is still himself: the man who finds peace in his garden.
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Everyone should read (or hear) this every 10 years or so. It reminds you how shallow and self-absorbed people can be and how quick, by nature, we write our own opinions onto someone else's simple silence. If only we did not.
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