PASSION PLAY by Jerzy Kosinski


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When we disbelieve what others could do, we end up disbelieving what we could do ourselves. That's how we're punished for our failure to imagine." That's Kosinski's credo, so he continually tries to stir our imaginations by exploring perverse, violent, creepy behavior--and, at their best, his terse pageants of lust and cruelty do lure us in and catch us accepting or even being turned on by primal or decadent doings. Here, however, the combative and sexual escapades of Kosinski's latest cool brute--nomadic, immigrant polo-player Fabian, "an outlaw from the league of crusaders, inquisitors, and censors of sexual conduct"--never seduce, rarely fascinate, and frequently seem merely dull or laughable. Fabian's roving polo-field encounters (he travels around in a horse-carrier-van) include some violent, even fatal one-on-one duels, but the minutely described action verges on an inappropriate romanticism and dilutes the impact; moreover, Kosinski belabors the dubious metaphor of "Riding Through Life" mercilessly--with Fabian even writing controversial books about horsemanship that obviously parallel Kosinski's controversial books about life. And the erotic exploits here seem desperately debased, though they do move in a sort of progression from lust to romance: first there's kinkiness galore with a half-way transsexual (female from the waist up), then a threesome with a horse and a Southern-belle horsetrainer (she's a black passing for white), then a quickie affair with a fat girl who commits suicide when Fabian abandons her, and finally Vanessa--a riding-student heiress whom Fabian deflowers at a public-sex club and winds up loving tenderly and selflessly. It will probably be noted that Fabian is somewhat more humanized than other Kosinski outlaws, but the apparent attempt to make him a tortured hero ("The gall of life. . . fell on him with all its futile weight") is an unseemly, sentimental failure. If Kosinski wants to start getting sympathy for his alter-egos, he'll have to stop writing shock-a-thons to fit his thematic formula--which may be a good idea, considering the lumbering obviousness of this latest effort.
Pub Date: Sept. 1st, 1979
ISBN: 0802135676
Page count: 288pp
Publisher: St. Martin's
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Sept. 1st, 1979


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