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Jerzy Kosinski: Steps

In describing five underappreciated novels, David Foster Wallace picked out this novel and called it a collection of unbelievably creepy little allegorical tableaux done in a terse elegant voice that’s like nothing else anywhere ever. It achieved a certain amount of fame when unknown writer Chuck Ross, under a pseudonym, submitted this novel, six years after it was first published to various publishers, including Random House, publisher of the original, and none recognised it and all rejected it. While it did win the National Book Award, though probably as much to make up for the failure to give it to its predecessor, you can see the point of the publishers and agents who rejected it. The book consists of a series of apparently unconnected episodes, with no plot, told by an unnamed narrator. Some of them are distinctly unpleasant. Kosinski has compared them to film montage and action painting. Others have compared them to the effect Holocaust survivors might feel, disconnected from real life. There is no question that they are powerful and make for fascinating though sometimes harrowing reading but they will not be everybody’s cup of tea.

Publishing history

First published 1968 by Random House