Being There

PUBLISHED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am
UPDATED : Sunday, 08 July, 2012, 12:00am


Being There
by Jerzy Kosinski (read by Dustin Hoffman)
Bloomsbury (audiobook)

In for a penny, in for a pound. Having listened to seven hours of Nicole Kidman reading To the Lighthouse, I thought I would try Dustin Hoffman narrate Jerzy Kosinski's whimsical 1971 fable about an anonymous gardener and television addict called Chance who rises - through little effort of his own - to become one of the most powerful men in American life. Pre-empting Forrest Gump, Chance's gnomic platitudes about life are read as morsels of profound wisdom. The story provided Peter Sellers with one of his finest roles in Hal Ashby's 1979 film adaptation. Indeed, Sellers' understated Chance was not a million miles away from Hoffman's portrayal of Raymond Babbitt in Rain Man. Clocking in at just under three hours, Being There is rather easier to take than To the Lighthouse. Hoffman's low rumble, and carefully measured phrasing is perfectly suited to the knowing simplicity of Kosinski's prose: 'It was safe and secure in the garden ... Chance ignored the streets, though he had never stepped outside the house and its garden. He was not curious about life on the other side of the wall.' A truly wonderful, and deeply touching achievement.