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Pinball (1996)

Pinball (1996)
3.57 of 5 Votes: 4
0802134823 (ISBN13: 9780802134820)
grove press
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Pinball (1996)
Pinball (1996)

About book: This is a book that I wanted to like. I found a beaten-up copy in the bottom of a box in an office in Tokyo. The central conceit is interesting, and, as another reviewer has pointed out, the theme of the emptiness of modern culture is worthwhile and just as valid today as it was when this was first published. This should have been a good novel, as it has all the right ingredients.Unfortunately, 'Pinball' is simply badly written. The passages on classical music read like the author just opened up a music dictionary and copied out whole chunks. This stylistic shift is especially jarring with the stuff about Chopin. The bits on Hendrix are much the same. In fact, the only places where the author seems to be writing with an 'authentic' voice are in descriptions of kinky (albeit sordidly repetitive) sex, or where white characters level racist slurs against the black pianist Donna. Perhaps Kosinski's other works are brilliant, and this is an aberration, but I confess to having little desire to find out...unless I happen to come across a dusty copy of another of his books at the bottom of a box somewhere!

I'm actually fairly unsure about what I thought of this book. There was a lot I liked about it; I loved the way that Kosinski talks about music throughout it, and I think that the character of an anonymous artist like Goddard is inspired. I found myself imagining Goddard's music to sound like Daft Punk, which I realize is a bit of an anachronism, but it seems to fit somehow.There were two main things that I didn't like about the book, at the same time. The first was what appeared to be some subtle passive racism regarding the character of Donna. She's the only black character in the book, and she is presented as an overly sexualized, petty character, and she's written in a way that seems to suggest that she is that way because of her ethnicity. The other thing is the ending of the book. For the first 9/10ths of the book, it's primarily a character-driven piece, with little true plot to speak of, and then it turns into a much more plot-driven piece right at the very end, which is a little jarring.Overall, I'd give it a tentative recommendation if you're a music lover.
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An extremely creative and well-plotted story about a musical mystery. Kosinski is an expert at weaving in sex and intrigue, and he does it brilliantly here, as well, and includes music into this equation. Even with all the discussion about classical music (which was a large plot device, but of which I know nothing), I was not lost and did not feel talked down to. However, the end was really random and too much of a deus ex machina, so it went down from 4 stars to 3. Still an enjoyable read the entire way through, though.
Sigh. I thought I'd get more out of Kosinski, especially since he wrote the Painted Bird. I think lightening may have struck only once. Incredibly predictable ending. The surfeit of classical/pop/punk music research made it seem like the plot and other things were mostly secondary. Not his best. Also, compare this whole book to the part in (if my memory serves me correctly) the Unbearable Lightness of Being (perhaps Book of Laughter and Forgetting by another eastern European author), where he (Kundera?) talks about the dilapidation of music ever since the guitar was invented. Yet another terrible observation that made it through the editing process. Anyway, back to Pinball. The basic premise of the story is about a mysterious musician, whose music is the as hot and sweet as jalepeno jam. All the characters are forgettable.
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