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Going Native

3.57 of 5 stars 3.57  ·  rating details  ·  501 ratings  ·  58 reviews
Going Native is Stephen Wright’s darkly comic take on the road novel, in which one man’s headlong escape from the American Dream becomes everybody’s worst nightmare. Wylie Jones is set: lovely wife, beautiful kids, barbecues in the backyard of his tastefully decorated suburban Chicago house with good friends. Set, but not satisfied. So one night he just walks out, gets beh ...more
Paperback, 320 pages
Published April 12th 2005 by Vintage (first published 1994)
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Krok Zero
Feb 17, 2011 Krok Zero rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: pomophiles
Recommended to Krok Zero by: Mike Reynolds first, then a high placement on Larry McCaffery's top 100
Shelves: winter-10-to-11
First thing's, as usual, first: despite what his Goodreads author page indicates, Stephen Wright the novelist is not the same individual as Steven Wright the deadpan stand-up comedian. It would be almost inconceivably awesome if this were the case, but it is not. I have Goodreads librarianship so I guess technically I could fix this error, but I am a busy man*, and do not have time for such menial tasks. (*I am not a busy man.)

So. By way of forestalling my review of this great book, and to avoid
...more
Drew
America is dead; it just doesn't know it yet.

Or at least that's what Stephen "N.R." Wright would have you believe. And he mostly makes a convincing and eloquent case. The big strength of this book, at least according to me, is the frenetic, chaotic-yet-precise quality of the writing; the prose perfectly matches the ideas that Wright is trying to get across. And it's a good thing too, because I think the ideas themselves are a little tired. We've replaced meaning with entertainment? Learned that
...more
Vit Babenco
“News of his infamous screenplay she had been listening to for the last five years at least and its chances of soon seeing the light of day, let alone the light of a cinema screen, were about as good as her roaring off in the accord with the packed suitcase that had been lying in wait in the trunk for most of a decade.”
If aesthetics of pop culture cinema were applied to the everyday life the reality would've turned into a nightmare. What in the movie looks captivating in life would be horror.
But
...more
Alan
Jul 27, 2009 Alan rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommended to Alan by: Mike Reynolds and others
Shelves: novels, read-in-2009
still humming with this one, three/four days after finishing it. I said to a GR friend each section was like taking a different unknown drug, and waiting to see what the buzz was- and mostly you weren't disappointed. It's taken me a while to organise my thoughts on it, and the next book - Ellroy's My Dark Places suffered from being so different it was like reading another language (although I'm fine with it now). This is the opposite of Ellroy's minimal, staccato sentences: this is lush, hyper-r ...more
Katherine
You have no idea how difficult it is for me to do, but I’m quitting this book midway. It goes against every fiber of my being. But I’m trying to embrace the advice of a coworker—sticking with a book that is not for you wastes time in which you could be reading the next book you’ll love.

Stephen Wright is a wordsmith to be sure. Something in his precise and thoughtful imagery makes me think of Denis Johnson’s Jesus’ Son. And that’s a high compliment in my mind. Still, while I pushed myself through
...more
Pinky
It's been about 8 years since I last re-read this, so I can't/won't say much here except: read it. (Since Dan Chaon's excellent Await Your Reply goosed my memory of this Wright, I'm planning to re-read it again, too.) I picked up the original hardback cold in the bookstore, knowing nothing of its author, and took a quick look at its blurbs. Don DeLillo, Toni Morrison, Robert Coover. Whaaaa? The book managed to meet--confidently, swaggeringly exceeded--my expectations given that unlikely trio.
Tung
Stephen Wright’s (author of Meditations in Green) third “novel”, if you can call it that. The book starts with an upper middle class suburban couple enjoying a barbecue with another upper middle class suburban couple. The description of this scene is a fantastic portrait of the banalities of such a life. One of the men disappears and can’t be found and the scene ends. The next scene is a description of a boyfriend and girlfriend who are addicted to crack. The end of that scene involves the boyfr ...more
Kylie
At first I absolutely despised this book. I was forced to read it for my Interpretation of Literature class. Originally, I found the writing to be incredibly pretentious. After reading further into the book and becoming more accustomed to Wright's writing I started to like the book.

I really enjoyed Wright's ideas about pop culture being a reflection of primal desires. Throughout the book there is many Hollywood references, and the reader can see just how influential pop culture is on the charact
...more
David
Could never quite engage with Going Native.

The writing was good; the product placement a little tedious--as it was with American Psycho and Fight Club; the characterizations not quite cookie-cutter but close to this. The story, though engaging, could not quite overcome these other defects.

There are those who will, and have, enjoyed this book very much and Mr. Wright's Going Native is a book which deserves a wide audience, even today, but this reader could never quite find a way into the charac
...more
Alexander Weber
At first, I didn't care much for the different characters and stories that were being introduced with every chapter. The first chapter, which introduces us to our main protagonist, was really great. From there, I felt the chapters were just short vignettes/stories I was reading through, not people or events I was connecting with. Then, maybe half-way, you start to get into how this book is being presented, and by the second last chapter (which is 80 pages (more than 1/4 of the book)) - which on ...more
Brian Wade
Going Native is violent, dangerous. At times it reads like Ellis's American Psycho set in the 90s. This is another book that is much more enjoyable the less the Reader knows about the plot, structure, etc. In retrospect I wish I hadn't even read the inside dust jacket. Although relatively superficial, even the jacket gives away too much. I'm pretty sure I would have given Going Native 5stars if I had known absolutely nothing about the story prior to starting it.

I would really enjoy reviewing a
...more
J
Dense, haunting, cynical, impressive. Some books, when you reach the end, taunt you to just start right over again, and this book was one of them; what exactly was the journey of Wylie Jones, and why did his path intersect with the lives of these people? The story is structured not so that we are running a marathon, but that we are standing by the side of the road watching a marathon, and each time we see the runners we are getting back into our cars and driving to the next location to catch the ...more
Schuyler
Click on Stephen Wright and Goodreads has a nice bio on the dry comic, Stephen Wright. This is not the same Stephen Wright. At first, I was like, "Wait, the dry ironic comic Stephen Wright wrote several works of post-modernish fiction?" Well, no, he didn't, and he spells his name "Steven" not "Stephen". Now that we got that out of the way.

Most reviews reference this as a "horror" type novel, and even DeLillo calls it a "slasher classic". I guess. It didn't strike me a particularly violent novel.
...more
Matt
You know that idea you have, about the novel that's not really a novel exactly, but not a collection of stories either, in which you follow some object (like a car) as it transfers from owner to owner? Yeah, well, about that... Stephen Wright already did it.

But don't worry, there's still room in the world for your masterpiece. Or, room in a different world--the one Wright lives in is probably note the same as yours; his is more unnerving and chaotic and violent and awful. So write away! (There i
...more
Tocotin
At first I liked the book immensely, it started with a backyard party of two married couples, people who clearly weren't feeling comfortable in their lives. Then one of the guys disappeared and I thought this would be the starting point of a story. It was, in a way, but where I had expected a novel, I got a string of vignettes about lives of a bunch of people, lives connected only by the chameleon-like appearances of the guy who had disappeared in the first chapter.

Some of the stories were mild
...more
Gus Sanchez
Not so much a novel as 8 short stories with a central theme of losing one's identity, Going Native is a gritty, hard-edged, brilliant work of post-modern dread, expertly worded by Stephen Wright. The novel revolves around the character of Wylie Jones, a man who seemingly has it all: a beautiful home, a well-paying job, a wife, 2 children. During a seemingly inane party, Wylie suddenly steals his neighbors battered '65 Ford Galaxie 500 and just disappears. The subsequent stories tell of Wylie's d ...more
Unbridled
The book's cover features a quote from Michiko Kakutani of the New York Times: "An uncompromising 1990's version of On the Road...chilling and often brilliant." With this blurb, however out of context this blurb might be, Ms. Kakutani, who has never been a favorite of mine, has earned my eternal contempt. Often brilliant? On the Road? Has she read On the Road? Going Native is to On the Road as Kakutani is to Lionel Trilling (which is not fair to Trilling) - i.e., not at all.

Like the amateur, thi
...more
Jimmie
I didn't think this story read well. it had interesting tid bits like all the pop culture references and many of the characters being named after cartoon characters, but the story didn't feel like a story but rather many scenes placed together. I did not care for it, but thought it was interesting separately.
Absurdfarce
Going Native is often described as a dark version of the American "road novel", America's culture of violence rendered through a series of painful scenes loosely connected by a narrative thread. The book would be compelling for these reasons alone but the author's astonishing prose makes it so much more. Wright's style is best described as a rapid-fire sequence of images and thoughts, an amped-up stream-of-consciousness. The effect is to completely immerse the reader into the scene; one doesn't ...more
Justin
Story of a guy who bails on his suburban family, steals a car and sets off on an increasingly violent and criminal expedition across America. Sounds awesome, right? But somehow, it kind of wasn't. The writing is virtuosic--when he describes, for instance, a guy smoking crack, it actually makes you want to try it--but in some places I felt the prose was a little too layered and complex, in that Pynchonesque way where there's so much going on that you can't tell what's actually going on. But there ...more
Jude Joseph Lovell
One of my top 5 novels of all time. It is brilliant. This author is CRIMINALLY undersung and unknown. A terrifying and very honest book about the American nightmare.
Lostinanovel
This reads much more like a series of short stories than a novel but a bit frustrating because the stories feel unfinished. I didn't like the shadowy nature of the main character that weakly linked the stories together. I also was a bit confused regarding the theme of Americans being a nation of voyeurs. Lots of references to Hollywood and the reader often feels like a voyeur, but the characters themselves have facinating lives themselves and are not tv zombies in the least.

Despite my criticism,
...more
Haley
Calling it. Got about halfway through and life is just too short to spend on bad books. Even if I've had them on my TBR for 6 years. Nope.
Mike
A really good read, even if at times it feels a little disjointed or overlong in its episodes. Wylie Jones is the main character, though he is mostly spectral than actual in the sense that we never really see him, except in the first chapter and the final chapter.

The irony of Wylie's final appearance is that he seems to be right back where he started--in a dead end. The novel ends here and the reader is challenged to imagine where Wylie will go next...anything is possible.

Mr. Wright weaves inter
...more
Steve
A masterwork written in brilliant, hallucinatory prose.

In a series of short stories, Wright takes a journey across dark, inner soul of the United States. The stories are linked just enough to the main character's own journey that you can call it a novel. But's more a weird, almost druggy exploration of the American mindset at the end of the 20th Century.

Wright's style is wonderfully crafted, full of imagery and invention. It's not an easy book, but it's really interesting to explore. It's "Heart
...more
Ben
A dazzling novel by one of our best writers. Discussed (along with Wright's Meditations in Green) on my blog:

http://friedfetusdream.wordpress.com/...
Marck Bailey
What I don't understand about this book is why it is considered a novel. It feels much more like eight separate stories, with little if any carryover from one chapter to the next. None of which should take away the sheer, thick, glorious prose that Wright can turn out. I finished this book four weeks ago as I write this, and I'm well on to other books, but it is clear that my own writing is *still* heavily influenced by the rhythms and complex sentence structures that I entrained to while readin ...more
Zach
2.5 Stars.

Great sentences strung together within loosely connected vignettes does not = a novel. Plot matters, characters matter. Not being boring matters. This book is beautifully written, and extra kudos to Wright for coming off purposefully meretricious and not dark and corny, but I found this "genre-bending, slasher classic blah blah blah thrill ride..." to be tedious, and, except for the sentences and paragraphs, not particularly clever.
Jamie Grefe
Second read: An America in love with television and film, particularly "bad" film, how the image has seeped through the screen and smeared itself across the mind of Wylie, our main character, a man we track from ominous dinner party to the folds of this cinematized America. Wright writes with a love of English. The story unfolds, allows immersion, and its a bright prose, a technicolor experience like a literary B-movie. How great it is.
Tod Wodicka
Exhausting, numbing, occasionally jawdroppingly brilliant. Some passages sing. Others rant, ramble, flail. This book is cold. Reminded me a little of Robert Stone's darker works but stripped of what makes Stone so pleasurable: plot, mostly, I suppose! Or... DeLillo without the restraint or precision? Wright's got way too much of a good thing maybe. I'm very curious/excited to read his other novels.
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8903
Stephen Wright (born 1946) is a novelist based in New York City known for his use of surrealistic imagery and dark comedy. His work has varied from hallucinatory accounts of war (Meditations in Green), a family drama among UFO cultists (M31: A Family Romance), carnivalesque novel on a serial killer(Going Native), to a picaresque taking place during the Civil War ("The Amalgamation Polka"). He has ...more
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“The subterranean lair of the wily human relationship: a dark maze of pop-up demons, fun house mirrors, spooky dead ends, multiple false bottoms.” 3 likes
“An engaging discussion upon the nature of the soul, its defining qualities, the possibility it manifests a specific shape, the likelihood of its integrity beyond formaldehyde and flowers, speculation on its absence from an unfortunate sum of mortal beings since God, at the moment of creation, released into the universe a fixed number of souls to be recycled among a diminishing percentage of an exponentially expanding population, hence bodies without souls.” 2 likes
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