Wednesday, November 10, 2010


First published by 
Random House, 1968.


Haunting. Vivid. I could pretty much stop writing here and you would know what you're getting with this book. Kosinski writes in terse, emotionless prose that leaves the reader feeling the isolation of the narrator. If you like your novels well-grounded, conventional and nicely packaged then you may not find too much enjoyment here. This is a novel that explores themes of serious literature: identity, politics, immigration, sexuality, violence, and quite possibly the meaning of life.

The novel is separated into vignettes, only sometimes relating to each other. Interspersed is a dialogue with a woman. Most of these stories centre around sexual acts and sometimes about violence, and sometimes about not much. They're all readable, they're all engaging, and all have some striking image that like a quote on the rear of the book says, will pop into your mind every now and again. There are stories and scenarios here that I have never heard or even thought of before. Sometimes I wonder how autobiographical this is, or where the inspiration came from. At times they border on the absurd and I think this is where the critics run for their Kafka books. I won't disclose what these stories can be about because discovering them is what makes the book so intriguing. Just know that they will not bring a smile to your face or enlighten your day, they will, however, shock.

Steps went on to win the National Book Award for fiction, which is and isn't a surprise. Surprising because of the content, but the precision of the prose and the general themes make it a suitable award winner. Do not expect this to be a neat story; it is very open-ended and very enigmatic - just like its author.

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