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Going Native

3.58  ·  Rating Details ·  600 Ratings  ·  69 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
Jul 23, 2009 Krok Zero rated it it was amazing  ·  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
May 05, 2013 Drew rated it really liked it
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
Jul 03, 2013 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
“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
Ben
Jun 17, 2014 Ben rated it it was amazing
Stephen Wright is one of the best novelists in America. He’s also not nearly as well known as he deserves to be. This is partly due, I assume, to his small output, just four novels in over thirty years: Meditations in Green (1983), M31: A Family Romance (1988), Going Native (1994), and The Amalgamation Polka (2006). Of those, only Going Native and The Amalgamation Polka are currently in print. Even in cult circles he’s doesn’t seem to be that well known; he’s certainly doesn’t have the following ...more
Alan
Jul 06, 2009 Alan rated it it was amazing
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
Simon
Jul 07, 2009 Simon marked it as unfinished
Notwithstanding Mike's rave review, this is not for me. Someone describes the prose as maximalist. I'll say. (Though that's not why it's not for me.)
Garrett Zecker
Feb 14, 2017 Garrett Zecker rated it it was amazing
Going Native is a novel of eight interconnected short stories that follow Wylie Jones across the United States after he leaves his family for no apparent reason but to escape the monotony of middle America. Careening across the interstate in a green Ford Galaxie, the enigmatic Jones changes names, destinations, personas, and motivations in a cacophony of violence, drugs, sex, consumption, and boredom. Wright's novel is a triumph of storytelling, reflecting an escape from the stifling prison of t ...more
Unbridled
Oct 06, 2011 Unbridled rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
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
Katherine
Nov 30, 2011 Katherine rated it it was ok
Shelves: fiction
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
Jason
Jul 28, 2007 Jason rated it it was amazing
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
Jan 09, 2008 Tung rated it liked it
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
Mar 12, 2013 Kylie rated it liked it
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
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
Colin
Feb 17, 2017 Colin rated it liked it
All,the characters are despicable in their own way. The main character makes a cameo in each of the vignettes, himself not having much substance. There is, however, a gem of a vignette that takes place in Indonesia that is hugely entertaining. This made up for the rest of the well written ugliness.
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
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
J
Mar 07, 2012 J rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction, mccaffery
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
Matt
Aug 26, 2009 Matt rated it it was ok
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
Ron
Jan 30, 2016 Ron rated it liked it
The structure is more like a series of short stories, each with different characters in different settings, tied together loosely by the appearance of a recurring character, the disaffected husband of the first story, who one day just ups and absconds with a neighbor's Ford Galaxie, the one detail that recurs. Each story is pretty interesting in itself, with a wide range of vivid characters, and each story is quite well written. But how it all ties together, why we should care about this recurri ...more
Rick
Jul 27, 2016 Rick rated it really liked it
A crazy mad journey to the brutal heart of the American dream. Stephen Wright's fever dream of a novel is a swollen word crazy novel about the demented journey of a chameleon like homicidal maniac
who winds a bloody path in an old Ford Galaxy across America before he beaches on the West Coast. like Jennifer Egan's A Visit from the Goon Squad Wright's novel which it predates is really a series of excellent short stories that are linked only by the fact that the main character surfaces briefly in o
...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
Gus Sanchez
Apr 20, 2010 Gus Sanchez rated it really liked it
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
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
Justin
Aug 05, 2011 Justin rated it liked it
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
Chad Unrein
Sep 22, 2013 Chad Unrein rated it it was ok
With it's fragmented story lines, it took me a year to read this book and I can't say I could ever make much sense out of it. Wright is certainly talented, and he certainly knows it. At times, Going Native feels like the author is writing for one reader only: himself.

I fell in love with some of the characters some of the time, but I wasn't sure of the point of introducing them, killing them, hurting them, ditching them, etc. and moving on. Reading this felt like riding a public bus across town.
...more
Absurdfarce
Jan 01, 2012 Absurdfarce rated it it was amazing
Shelves: literature
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
Mike
Apr 19, 2011 Mike rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Lostinanovel
Jan 23, 2013 Lostinanovel rated it liked it
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 critici
...more
Marck Bailey
Oct 01, 2008 Marck Bailey rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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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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