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ORAL PLEASURE by Jerzy Kosinski


Kosinski as Storyteller

by Jerzy Kosinski, edited by Kiki Kosinski, Barbara Tepa Lupack

Pub Date: Dec. 4th, 2012
ISBN: 978-0-8021-2033-5
Publisher: Grove

A collection of interviews, speeches and essays by the late author, whose literary reputation plummeted after a 1982 article in the Village Voice accused him of plagiarism and employing ghostwriters.

Kosinski (1933–1991) won the National Book Award for his 1968 novel Steps, and before his 1982 plummet, he seemed to be everywhere, especially in magazines and on TV (numerous appearances with Johnny Carson). His widow (now also deceased) assembled these pieces, often transcribing recordings she’d made of his appearances. Neither Kosinski nor his editors (including Lupack) makes much of a defense for him; his editor relies on the frail argument that “the underlying truth” of his stories trumps factual accuracy. “Most of the charges were unproven,” says the editor, neglecting to mention which ones were. The editor has arranged the pieces in large categories (“The Practice of Fiction,” “On the Holocaust” and so on) and generally adheres to chronology within categories. So we hear Kosinski in a 1982 radio interview describing his boyhood in Poland, a boyhood that sounds a lot like the boy’s in The Painted Bird. Kosinski had the capacity to say arresting things. In a 1973 letter to his publisher, he mentions how “the imagination creates molds into which experience can fit.” He also wrote that a writer’s function is to be a “detonator” and that language is “the translation of man’s original weapons.” Unsurprisingly, there is some repetition. Twice he mentions that the writer’s task is to pause and reflect, and he repeatedly blasts TV for its numbing effects on the American mind. He also wishes that Jews would think more of the future, less of the Holocaust.

Pieces that reveal a fine mind, a creative imagination and, sometimes, an idiosyncratic notion of fact.