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Going Native

3.57  ·  Rating details ·  724 ratings  ·  85 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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Average rating 3.57  · 
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 ·  724 ratings  ·  85 reviews

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Glenn Russell

"She was having thoughts and her thoughts were having thoughts, a regular birthing frenzy in the old cranium tonight, strangled cries and organic mess and a horde of deformed infants crawling like advancing troops over the rocks and nails and broken glass in her head, and suddenly she couldn't seem to determine with any certainty which was more pressingly real, those bloodied babies hunting for a way out, or the besieged voice most anxious to preserve its status as the imperial "I" that was look
Krok Zero
Jul 23, 2009 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
Vit Babenco
Jul 03, 2013 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.
May 05, 2013 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
Steven Godin
On opening the cover, I soon discovered that Stephen Wright is not exactly sure how old he is, and he dropped out of college and ended up being drafted to the Vietnam war. Maybe the all the joints and acid hits really did go to his head, and stayed there whilst penning this novel.

Part Don DeLillo, part David Lynch, part insanity, Wright's nightmarish headtrip of a novel is a dazzling if somewhat confusing (after the halfway point at least) voyage of self-recovery through the dark underbelly of
Jun 17, 2014 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
Jul 06, 2009 rated it it was amazing
Recommended to Alan by: Mike Reynolds and others
Shelves: novels
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
Garrett Zecker
Feb 14, 2017 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
Jul 07, 2009 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.)
Oct 06, 2011 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
Nov 30, 2011 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
Jul 28, 2007 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.
Glyn Lee
Aug 15, 2017 rated it really liked it
My favourite author for a decade until I found J. G.Ballard, says it all ☺️
Jan 09, 2008 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
William Adams
May 11, 2017 rated it did not like it
Shelves: literary
This widely praised novel is more like a collection of very loosely connected short stories. The writing is interesting, some of the sentences hallucinatory. That’s the joy of reading the book. However, there is no plot, no significant character development, and no particular insights are revealed. It is just a series of almost unrelated scenes and characters.

Should it be read then as an anthology of stories? As stories, they don’t work well. A recurring theme in the book is allusion to horror
May 25, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This one just takes off and never looks back. Every chapter switches to new characters, and you're left wondering (until the pattern emerges), how these new folks enter into the equation here. You can't read lightly and assume what you may not have gleaned at first will recurse for your benefit later. Not gonna happen.

Thematically, it's sort of like American Psycho meets On the Road meets Heart of Darkness, but the focus is mostly on the extras, those who may not have been given backstory in tho
Bill Sanwald
Oct 14, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: owned
I couldn't quite get into this book. I couldn't identify with or feel anything for any of the characters in these barely connected chapters. I did like the chapter that took place in Indonesia, but the others seemed like work to read. Just not my cup of tea at this point in my life.
Apr 10, 2018 rated it really liked it
I suggest trying to finish in one or two sittings if possible. Also, read a review or two beforehand so you know what you're getting yourself into.
Seth Augenstein
Apr 10, 2019 rated it it was amazing
Terrific book. One of those that really excites me an I will reread for years to come. One quibble: I think of it less as a novel and more as an interconnected short story sequence
May 06, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: owned
I certainly liked this more than On the Road....less narcissistic, hedonistic and more scarred human psyche.
David Rice
Jul 23, 2019 rated it it was amazing
A stone-cold lunatic American classic.
Feb 01, 2020 rated it really liked it
Wright writes right. Amazingly so.
Early frontrunner for book of the year.
Mar 08, 2020 rated it it was ok
okay... beautifully written, but i got lost along the way
Jared Busch
Mar 17, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Really great... not a fast read by any means - very dense but also surprisingly funny. All 8 chapters could read like standalone but interconnected short stories. Recommended if you wanted to like DeLillo but just quite couldn’t.
Glenn Bruce
Mar 30, 2020 rated it did not like it
I felt like Soliari: "Too many words!" It could be me, but I prefer cleaner writing - you know, without the thesaurus too handy.
Jack Heath
Sep 03, 2018 marked it as to-read
Synopsis: Wylie Jones has everything, but one day he just takes off. It's a joy ride to hell full of sex and violence.
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
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.
Feb 17, 2017 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.
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
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Stephen Wright is a Vietnam veteran, MFA graduate of the Iowa Writers' Workshop, and the author of four previous novels. He has received a Whiting Award in Fiction, a Guggenheim Fellowship, and a Lannan Literary Fellowship, and has taught writing and literature at Iowa, Princeton, Brown, and The New School. He was born in Warren, Pennsylvania, and lives in New York City.

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