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Passion Play

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William Kennedy has written in The Washington Post that "the Kosinski hero is unique in literature, as recognizable as the Hemingway hero used to be". Passion Play is the story of Fabian, Kosinski's most romantic and driven hero. A modern knight-errant, he roams America in his custom-built VanHome, his refuge, transport, and stable for his two horses. His livelihood is pol William Kennedy has written in The Washington Post that "the Kosinski hero is unique in literature, as recognizable as the Hemingway hero used to be". Passion Play is the story of Fabian, Kosinski's most romantic and driven hero. A modern knight-errant, he roams America in his custom-built VanHome, his refuge, transport, and stable for his two horses. His livelihood is polo -- not the millionaire's team sport, but the life-threatening duel of clashing horsemen. The prize is more than money and honor; it is the awareness of having drawn upon every resource of body and mind, of man and horse in danger. Passion Play is a masterpiece of violence and seduction, love and loss, by one of the world's greatest writers.


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William Kennedy has written in The Washington Post that "the Kosinski hero is unique in literature, as recognizable as the Hemingway hero used to be". Passion Play is the story of Fabian, Kosinski's most romantic and driven hero. A modern knight-errant, he roams America in his custom-built VanHome, his refuge, transport, and stable for his two horses. His livelihood is pol William Kennedy has written in The Washington Post that "the Kosinski hero is unique in literature, as recognizable as the Hemingway hero used to be". Passion Play is the story of Fabian, Kosinski's most romantic and driven hero. A modern knight-errant, he roams America in his custom-built VanHome, his refuge, transport, and stable for his two horses. His livelihood is polo -- not the millionaire's team sport, but the life-threatening duel of clashing horsemen. The prize is more than money and honor; it is the awareness of having drawn upon every resource of body and mind, of man and horse in danger. Passion Play is a masterpiece of violence and seduction, love and loss, by one of the world's greatest writers.

30 review for Passion Play

  1. 5 out of 5

    Evan

    How could you, the late Mr. Kosinski, write a 300-page novel about polo and sex and not have anyone in it being beaten on the ass with a riding crop? I mean, seriously. Passion Play is bad -- but one of the best bad novels I've read. It inhabits that tiny area in the interlocking circles of literature where the great and the bad overlap. Ostensibly a serious book about the onset of male impotence, loss of virility and control of the destiny of one's life, the book becomes a frustrating mess of unn How could you, the late Mr. Kosinski, write a 300-page novel about polo and sex and not have anyone in it being beaten on the ass with a riding crop? I mean, seriously. Passion Play is bad -- but one of the best bad novels I've read. It inhabits that tiny area in the interlocking circles of literature where the great and the bad overlap. Ostensibly a serious book about the onset of male impotence, loss of virility and control of the destiny of one's life, the book becomes a frustrating mess of unneeded melodramatic tangents and digressions and at one point even has a flashback within a flashback. The story follows a manly loner, Fabian, an aging polo player and noted equestrian author, as he travels across country in his oversize RV sex wagon with trusty horses in tow, futilely trying to find work in the polo industry (not kidding, folks; and not surprisingly, Fabian finds few takers), a field from which he seems shut out and estranged due to his bad boy image and aversion to teamwork. Manslaughter is in his past, too. Either by accident or in a fit of jealous rage he kills his best friend, a tycoon's heir named Eugene Stanhope, in a pick-up game of polo. In his adventures, there is much casual sex, and once in awhile, it seems, a dip into the well of the younger stuff. He consciously scans equestrian magazines for underaged riders to whom he can sell his riding instruction services, one of which seems to include hymen breaking. Actually, despite the come-on cover, showing a young girl in her slip on a hobby horse spreading her legs for a horseman, there is only one actual scene in the book of illegal sex, and in that one the cherry is untouched. The rest of his adventures in that realm are implied. The girl in question is Vanessa Stanhope (who's identified as a minor but whose age is never stated, though I'm guessing about 16 based on clues in the book), heiress and niece of Eugene, the guy Fabian killed supposedly by accident. Rather unbelievably, Fabian is hired to be Vanessa's riding instructor. It is only later in the story that Vanessa submits herself fully to Fabian, by which time she is of age. Her love for him, despite their separation, makes up a good deal of the latter part of the book. But getting to their first meeting doesn't happen until the book is more than half over. Along the way, there are duplicitous women, ominous meetings in leather-chaired drawing rooms among cigar-smoking men, a ridiculous and unnecessary Latin American sojourn in which one character is murdered by use of tarantula, illegal immigrant sex slavery, fun with trannies, S&M sex using horse apparati, statutory rape, suicide, cruelty to horses, and a blatantly gratuitous and lengthy scene in a sex club modeled after the infamous Plato's Retreat of NYC. There's even an episode in which one of Fabian's fly-by lovers is a black girl passing for white; it's like something from a 1940s novel. The book is filled with many lengthy descriptions of polo matches and equestrian events, made more violent than they actually are; in fact the first hundred pages are so densely packed with them that many non-inclined readers will probably bail from boredom. Kosinski is at his best when the book ruminates on issues of aging and how one chooses to live one's life. Fabian, despite his amorality, does have a kind of code of honor, he never sells out and sticks doggedly to his free way of life, even when the opportunities of money and domestic comfort are offered him. The sensuality of horses, horse riding and the feeling of kinship with horses is explored a little, but even more so is examined many of the cruel practices used to train horses. Fabian and by extension Kosinski use their platforms to decry these barbaric and painful tortures. The book often contains passages of beautiful writing, bafflingly interspersed with banal stretches. Possible ghostwriting might account for this discrepancy, a charge -- along with plagiarism -- that dogged Kosinski in the later years of his life and which led to the tanking of his once-high literary reputation. Many passages in this novel are overwritten for my taste; it takes a whole page for Kosinski to describe Fabian looking at a bank check, for instance. The ending of the book is crassly melodramatic, yet still ambiguous. It seems to have been penned for Hollywood. Despite the enormous flaws and ludicrousness of much of this novel -- or perhaps because of them -- this damned book was a page turner.

  2. 5 out of 5

    Joseph Pfeffer

    "A brutal excess of case histories that passed the bounds of credibility." This quote, by Kosinski himself in Passion Play, might serve as a description of the book. Passion Play is about a man named Fabian - we never get his first name - a fifty-something horseman who has the odd occupation of trucking two polo ponies around the country in his Vanhome in order to challenge wealthy players to one-on-one "stick and ball" competitions. It's virtually impossible to imagine such a man finding enough "A brutal excess of case histories that passed the bounds of credibility." This quote, by Kosinski himself in Passion Play, might serve as a description of the book. Passion Play is about a man named Fabian - we never get his first name - a fifty-something horseman who has the odd occupation of trucking two polo ponies around the country in his Vanhome in order to challenge wealthy players to one-on-one "stick and ball" competitions. It's virtually impossible to imagine such a man finding enough people to make money doing this, but somehow Fabian does. Or he really doesn't. Passion Play is mainly a series of flashbacks, in which Fabian, among other things, "accidentally" kills his best friend and rival for his lover, has a strange interlude with a South American dictator who tries to set him up with the beautiful wife of a dissenting journalist, involves himself with a plain, fat woman who kills herself over him, has a couple of wild sado-masochistic flings with young horsewomen, and so on. Kosinski has an odd way of setting up stories that seem to be going somewhere, then just end, after which he goes on to another story, all of which center, in an almost obsessive way, on Fabian. The book is saved, in some ways, in its final third, when it gets into Fabian's heartbreaking romance with a very young (Kosinski teases the reader to decide if she's underage) riding student who happens to be the niece of the man he killed. This is Vanessa Stanhope, whom Fabian introduces first to the complexities of advanced horseback riding, then to the greater complexities of sex as Fabian practices it. He engages in every form of heterosexual play imaginable, all connected somehow with horses and their tack. Much of the sex seems overwritten and overly detailed, curiously detached from anything called passion. Nevertheless, Fabian gets Vanessa to fall madly, tragically in love with him, and the end is not, to put it mildly, of the Hollywood sort. Passion Play is a glorious mess of a book, and it can seem to have been written by more than one hand, which is the very charge that ruined the career of Jerzy Kosinski, leading him to suicide at the age of 57. Before that, he had one of the most brilliant, successful runs of any novelist of his time. Passion Play was written around the time the critical establishment was going after him, and it's impossible not to see the curious twists and turns of Fabian's life as some kind of allegory of Kosinski's. The writing is uneven, but often overwhelming. It verges on overwriting, sometimes crosses the line, but still contains pages of some of the most evocative prose ever written in this country. When you finish the first third of the book, you will know what it's like to play polo at the highest level, perhaps more than you want to know. Passion Play is in essence a picaresque novel about a man who must live on the road yet touches people he encounters in all kinds of ways, sometimes deeply. Despite its disjointed, often unbelievable plot, it has terrific emotional impact, much like Fabian himself. Or Jerzy Kosinski.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Elaine

    Took me FOREVER to finish it. I just didn't care about the main character at all. It's still beautifully written like all of Kosinski's other works, but it's about *polo*, for crying out loud. I just didn't freakin care. However, I must give him an extra star for the way he rendered all (and there were a lot) his sex scenes. Holy cow. I needed a cold shower. Took me FOREVER to finish it. I just didn't care about the main character at all. It's still beautifully written like all of Kosinski's other works, but it's about *polo*, for crying out loud. I just didn't freakin care. However, I must give him an extra star for the way he rendered all (and there were a lot) his sex scenes. Holy cow. I needed a cold shower.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Maciek

    Fabian decided to get a haircut, and it it up to the reader to find out if he'll get it or not. The aging polo player, one of the very best, author of books on the topic and internationally recognized polo celebrity, roams the world in his VanHome with the company of two beloved polo horses - Big Lick and Gaited Amble. He is trying to come to terms with his fading fame and sexuality, strives for sensations, tests, judges and observes - himself and other people. Will Fabian find his true self? wi Fabian decided to get a haircut, and it it up to the reader to find out if he'll get it or not. The aging polo player, one of the very best, author of books on the topic and internationally recognized polo celebrity, roams the world in his VanHome with the company of two beloved polo horses - Big Lick and Gaited Amble. He is trying to come to terms with his fading fame and sexuality, strives for sensations, tests, judges and observes - himself and other people. Will Fabian find his true self? will he get a haircut? find out!

  5. 5 out of 5

    Blazz J

    4/5. Poleg Obarvane ptice v slovenskem prevodu obstaja le še Igra strasti, ki je bila v izvirniku izdana v času, ko je Kosinski navkljub senci plagiatorstva še užival sloves priljubljenega ameriškega pisatelja in vseh ugodnosti literarne slave. Kosinski je vselej (pre)močno zabrisoval meje med avtobiografskimi zapisi in fikcijo - v Igri strasti se predstavi kot samotarski učitelj jahanja in drzni igralec pola, ki ga privlačna mamljivost normalnega družinskega življenja tem bolj oddaljuje v nove 4/5. Poleg Obarvane ptice v slovenskem prevodu obstaja le še Igra strasti, ki je bila v izvirniku izdana v času, ko je Kosinski navkljub senci plagiatorstva še užival sloves priljubljenega ameriškega pisatelja in vseh ugodnosti literarne slave. Kosinski je vselej (pre)močno zabrisoval meje med avtobiografskimi zapisi in fikcijo - v Igri strasti se predstavi kot samotarski učitelj jahanja in drzni igralec pola, ki ga privlačna mamljivost normalnega družinskega življenja tem bolj oddaljuje v nove kraje bežnih poznanstev in še bolj bežnih, navidez trajnih ljubezni.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Terry

    Unadmirable hero Fabian drives a VanHome around the country playing polo and women. Like other books by Kosinski, it stays exciting with succinct use of words. It is amazing how the author makes a hero out of these characters. At the end of this book, Fabian finds that he has kept his mobile lifestyle and passed up all his other dreams when he says good-bye to the perfect girl for him. It is a depressing book that reads fast. Very enjoyable.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Tabitha

    This was a TERRIBLE book. So, bad that it holds the worst book club pick record for my book club! If I could rate it below 1 star, I would. Bordered on pornographic --even child pornographic. Kosinski apparently had lots of ghostwriters that he didn't give credit to--making his writing very inconsistent.................. This was a TERRIBLE book. So, bad that it holds the worst book club pick record for my book club! If I could rate it below 1 star, I would. Bordered on pornographic --even child pornographic. Kosinski apparently had lots of ghostwriters that he didn't give credit to--making his writing very inconsistent..................

  8. 4 out of 5

    Stephen

    You'll remember this book for quite a while after reading it. What does a manipulative pervert do when he faces old age? Does he sculpt the flawed rich girl into the creature who will satisfy his carnal desires for his later years, or does he let her go as a true act of love and ride into the sunset like a modern cowboy at heart? Read the book and find out. You'll remember this book for quite a while after reading it. What does a manipulative pervert do when he faces old age? Does he sculpt the flawed rich girl into the creature who will satisfy his carnal desires for his later years, or does he let her go as a true act of love and ride into the sunset like a modern cowboy at heart? Read the book and find out.

  9. 5 out of 5

    Emilyjungian

    It wanted to be a Lolita on horses, and once in awhile it nearly gets there, but it gets knocked off the saddle too much by building a ridiculous obstacle course of plot. I enjoyed this thing, but it's an equestrian event dreamed up by dressage trainers on coke. It wanted to be a Lolita on horses, and once in awhile it nearly gets there, but it gets knocked off the saddle too much by building a ridiculous obstacle course of plot. I enjoyed this thing, but it's an equestrian event dreamed up by dressage trainers on coke.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Karina Díaz Pérez

    La trama es bastante lenta, a pesar de eso, el contenido del libro, trata o toca temas algo controversiales aún hoy. Así que vale la pena leerlo.

  11. 4 out of 5

    Joel Peters

    Had to struggle a little to get to the end of this somewhat stupid and post-pubescent personal fantasy tale. It was, nevertheless, somewhat engaging.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Ken

    I enjoyed the book for the writing style and the off-beat protagonist.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erin

    Yes, it is disjointed - perhaps not the best stylistic choice. But I believe it was deliberate, and I enjoyed every word. I found his descriptions of polo and horses Hemingway-esque, which I loved.

  14. 4 out of 5

    Andy

    This gets as far out there as a reader needs or wants but, Kosinski's characters are neon in a glut of black and white derivatives. This gets as far out there as a reader needs or wants but, Kosinski's characters are neon in a glut of black and white derivatives.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Anne

    Gripping, mindboggling.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Joe

    huhn

  17. 4 out of 5

    Mike Bloom

    Ah...the Seventies. Though the writing style is engaging and some of the descriptions of horsemanship and polo were quite interesting, the bottom line is that I just did not like the protagonist of this novel. He would have fit neatly into a "What sort of man reads Playboy?" ad. I have read both The Painted Bird and Being There, both of which I enjoyed. This one I did not. Ah...the Seventies. Though the writing style is engaging and some of the descriptions of horsemanship and polo were quite interesting, the bottom line is that I just did not like the protagonist of this novel. He would have fit neatly into a "What sort of man reads Playboy?" ad. I have read both The Painted Bird and Being There, both of which I enjoyed. This one I did not.

  18. 5 out of 5

    Robert Armstrong

    The critics drool about the fable male hero, independent of course, flawed, but in a charming way, mixes violence with love/lust, etc. I see a heap of cruelty and selfishness. The modern phrase is toxic masculinity. Also, at times seriously vying for the Bad Sex Fiction Award.

  19. 5 out of 5

    Scott Robins

    Did not finish

  20. 4 out of 5

    J R

    Didn’t like this book as much as his book Being There. Enjoyed his equestrian and equine portions of the book.

  21. 4 out of 5

    Bob Box

    Read in 1980. The story of Fabian, Kosinski's most romantic and driven hero. Read in 1980. The story of Fabian, Kosinski's most romantic and driven hero.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Molly

  23. 4 out of 5

    Tom Anichini

  24. 5 out of 5

    Marta

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kevin Skazalski

  26. 4 out of 5

    Peter Keough

  27. 4 out of 5

    Bert

  28. 5 out of 5

    Brendan

  29. 4 out of 5

    Eric Hertenstein

  30. 4 out of 5

    Max

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