Selected Essays 1962-1991
Posthumous gathering of minor articles by Polish-American novelist Kosinski (1933-91). Kosinski is ever serious and sometimes wry in these pieces (reprinted from Vanity Fair, Esquire, The American Scholar, etc.), some of which are only a paragraph long or two or three pages. Few extend themselves, but those that do are the best. Even the more lighthearted ones, about Kosinski's obsessions with polo and skiing, tend to a kind of hard mind-body focus that analyzes "being there" as a skier or as a man on horseback. Kosinski, of course, is famed for The Painted Bird (still banned in Poland) and other works about his horrifying childhood under the Nazis, and for his elegies for Jewish culture wiped out in the Holocaust--especially for the disappearance of Jewish culture from Lodz, his hometown. That Jewish culture specific to Poland--the one country on earth where prewar Jews could develop and insulate themselves without fear of pogroms--has not reappeared, and Kosinski sees no Polish interest in bringing it back to bloom, a tragedy he calls a second Holocaust. Meanwhile, he's often drawn back to his brief ten-minute role in Warren Beatty's Reds, which he views from several different angles. He doesn't like his highly praised acting, expresses no desire to go on as an actor in the collective artistic labor that is filmmaking, and regrets that his hero Chauncey Gardiner, of Being There, must now he thought of by most readers only as Peter Sellers, who played Chauncey in the film version. Most involving here are pieces on Kosinski's rarified fictional strategies behind The Painted Bird and Steps. Despite his intellectuality, Kosinski is not a gripping essayist--though there are some raisins in the cake.