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.
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.
Dustin Hoffman is a great choice to read this charming novel, and he brings a subtle grace to the task. Easily the best audiobook I've ever lite listened to.
Yes, it is cute and funny -- although a little unbelievable. But you have to suspend disbelief for a few hours. There a few sexual scenes that would definitely make it not suitable for kids.
Dustin Hoffman is a great narrator for this. Chance is a simple minded guy who everyone else seems to think has eye-opening insights into politics, finance, and life.
Yes. In fact at just under 3 hours (2 hours in 1.5 speed), I easily finished in 1-2 days.
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