by Jerzy Kosinski Bantam; 287 pages; $14.95 (hardback) $7.95 (paper)
Of all hazardous materials handled by Jerzy Kosinski, none has been as volatile as the metaphor. Properly used, it illumined a century; in The Painted Bird (1965) the speechless child became a great symbol of the inadequacy of language confronted by atrocity. In Being There (1971) the hero, Chance, acutely parodied the modern condition: he was a blank; the cyclopean screen was full of ideas.
But in recent works, Kosinski's metaphors have proved unstable. Life was presented, with mixed results, as a cockpit, a...