9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely renewed my faith in current American fiction
I truly loved this novel, so much so that I have read it now completely through three times. The structure, presented as a series of fully self-sufficient short stories each interlinked by the presence of Wylie (or whatever his name may really have been), at first only peripherally, and then increasingly more emphatic, until at last we are completely inside his head...
Published on October 21, 1997 by email@example.com
10 of 14 people found the following review helpful
2.0 out of 5 stars Going Natural Born
Lysergic and interconnected might have been Wright's aim, but I came away from Going Native with a confused and fragmented vibe. Wright seems to run into the same problem Oliver Stone did with Natural Born Killers (the parallels plagued me through the entire novel): how do you comment on the numbing quality of a violence-saturated American media and culture without...
Published on November 29, 1996 by Robert S Michaels
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9 of 10 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Completely renewed my faith in current American fiction,
I truly loved this novel, so much so that I have read it now completely through three times. The structure, presented as a series of fully self-sufficient short stories each interlinked by the presence of Wylie (or whatever his name may really have been), at first only peripherally, and then increasingly more emphatic, until at last we are completely inside his head (without much extra room, at that), is not only brilliantly conceived, but also spectacularly realised. The way Wright uses language is maximal, to say the very least; his leisurely pacing and complex sentence structure are almost reminiscent of Faulkner (as is the book's unrelenting darkness), but his hip appropriation of popular iconography is unique. His characters are every stripe of crackpot and schemer, and the way he contrasts the lives and thoughts of each, stretched out in thickets of languorously-phrased prose, with the brutal and abrupt way each is touched by Wylie's increasingly deadly actions forms, for me, the greatest appeal of the novel. The section on Borneo, in which the filmmaker and his wife "go native", is perhaps the most extraordinary of the pieces, although the entire book is stunningly written and as fine and unforgettable as anything I've read in years. It inspired a renewed interest in me in reading modern short stories, and I read both of Wright's other novels as well, although clearly this is his best to date. As David Lynch once described Eraserhead, it is a dream of dark and disturbing things. It's certainly well worth the effort.
28 of 37 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Most Inventive Novel of the 90s,
You've got to love Amazon readers! There were at last count, 580 reviews of Grisham's The Brethren, and 10 (counting mine) so far of this vibrant, challenging, tour-de-force novel. I think this state of affairs would put a sardonic smile on Wright's phiz. It comes as no surprise that the reader from New Jersey didn't like Going Native. One look at his "more about me" list of reviews will tell you why (no offense, guy).
If you love satire of the darkest variety and enjoy reading authors who don't rely on cliches or hack conventions in painting their portraits, then give this one a go. It's the most mordantly humorous book I've picked up since I last read Celine. If Wright's view of American culture is too jaundiced for you, then I would suggest you stick to the sugar-coated variety of fiction that meets your requirements. There's nothing sweet about this vision. If you're afraid of having a bad trip, avoid this book. Because if you open these pages, you are, in Betty Davis' vernacular, "in for a bumpy ride." If you can't handle the truth, look elsewhere.
This is one of the four or five books that are automatically on my list of recommendations whenever someone approaches me on the subject of reading. Absolutely more than five stars.
4 of 4 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars purple prose,
And that's a good thing! This novel still haunts me to this day.I read it when it first came out and was blown away by Mr. Wright's way with words.In turns humorous,frightening,fanciful,frustrating,but always alive and in the moment;this is writing to inspire hope for the future of modern literature.The only other authors I can remotely relate to Wright's work are:A.M.Homes,and Lorrie Moore. I have since loaned this book to a friend and it was never returned,so I must buy another-although it is not the kind of book just anyone would enjoy(you have to love wordplay and experimentation),not just plot or character driven works.But if you are adventurous it's a hoot!Definetly 5 stars.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Raw And Riveting,
By A Customer
If you're looking for a page-turner, read no further. But if you're a high- octane prose addict who takes pleasure in watching an author torquing up everyday life until even the banal has the power to perforate the senses, then, you've found the right book.
According to Wright, we live in a culture where too much free time and a gulf between the haves and have-nots is breeding gratuitous acts of cruelty. In this novel we watch how such a state affects a group of well-educated, acquisitive Americans who have nothing to do with one another in any narrative sense.
The link between them is a character named Wylie Jones, who suddenly abandons his upper-middle-class life and begins roaming around America, either committing acts of murder or seducing women under different aliases.
Going Native, a more elegant way of saying ''reverting to the primitive,'' is a well-chosen showcase for Wright's raw, poetic sensibility. Author of the 1983 novel Meditations in Green, he portrays the effects of violence with hypnotic intensity. An ex-hippie truck driver gets knifed by a hitchhiker, and the blade stuck in his belly pulses to the rhythm of his dying heart. A well- educated woman about to be gunned down at close range in her own kitchen ''could see the terrified mouse that was her mind running round and round, searching for an exit.''
Composed of panoramic prose and comically hip dialogue, Going Native has the impact of an X-acto knife slitting open the bloated belly of American life.
6 of 7 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant.,
I read this novel when it came out, and have waited
impatiently ever since for a follow-up. Occasionally I
come to Amazon.com and check in to see if
S. Wright has anything on the horizon, but so far,
I remember starting this book, and I felt as every word,
every scene was lighted by kleiglights. If you are a true
reader, you will love this book. If not, buy a Robert Ludlum
or a John Grisham.
(I do want to disagree with one reader, who felt that
Annie Proulx's "Accordian Dreams" didn't add up to a
real novel. Novels, like houses or churches or human
beings, can be shaped in innumerable designs. Do
yourself a favor. Read both).
5 of 6 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Brilliant Postmodern Satire,
By A Customer
Stephen's Wright's third novel, Going Native, is written as a postmodern modular satire. Robert Coover very correctly described Going Native as "a sensational prime time novel...a pornographic twilight zone of beebee-eyed serial killers, drug-stunned pants-dropping road-warriors and 'marauding armies of mental vampires,' a nightmarish country of unparalleled savagery, where there is no longer any membrane between screen and life and the monster image feed is inexhaustible."
Going Native is composed of a seemingly unconnected series of vignettes of life along the road whose sole connecting factor lies in the presence of Wylie, a middle-class husband and father, and resident of Wakefield Estates. After stealing a green Fold Galaxie, Wylie transforms himself from everyday businessman into mass murderer. His chance encounters with a sequence of characters includes a suburban couple into drugs and kinky sex, a murderous hitchhiker, the runaway daughter of a desert motel owner, a voyeuristic porno moviemaker, a woman who sells jewelry and serves as a witness in Las Vegas wedding chapels and a California film industry couple who have just returned from a trek through the jungles of Borneo.
The only thing serving to connect these disparate narrative modules is Wylie, who, while on the road, operates under the name of Tom Hanna. Fate, chance or pure bad luck brings the life of each of the above characters (whose background has been filled in for the reader) into contact with the bizarre figure of Wylie. He thus becomes the one connective nomadic signifier that serves to link these disjointed stories as well as a metaphor for a fragmented and disjointed American reality.
The modular format of Going Native enables Wright to satirize various aspects of modern American life while bringing together, within a single narrative the contradictions of postmodern identity. Although the characters Wylie encounters randomly along the road may at first appear mutable, fragmented and even freakish, we come to realize in them a tiresome, almost cliched sameness and uniformity.
Going Native is a compelling indictment of the American postmodern culture. Wylie, himself, brings chaos, disillusion and death to all whom he encounters. In doing so, he comes to represent a form of estrangement that Wright so thoroughly critiques. He burrows into our images, forcing each of his victims to confront their status as temporal constructs and acknowledge their own mortality.
The point Wright seem to want to make is that we can't escape our own historicity, our own "hauntology," our own mortality; they are embedded in the makeup of our very lives. That Wright is able to portray this complex contradiction in disparate narratives disrupted and connected only by the figure of Wylie is testament to Wright's tremendous satiric talent. With Going Native, Stephen Wright joins that group of postmodern satirists (Pynchon, Gaddis, Acker, Elkin, Coover) who choose to diagnose a highly symptomatic postmodern culture and in so doing uncover the sheer radicality and absurdity of its connections.
7 of 9 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The Real Thing,
I have been getting very disillusioned with most of the male writers in this country whose perspective is invariably that of an adolescent male (no matter what their ages) but this writer is the real thing. He gets deeply into his characters in the most economical way and he knows them inside out. I haven't even finished this novel but already feel moved to write a testimonial. This book is about everything American. Its structure is a road book-cum-linked stories. Each one is a perfect, complete cameo of whatever life he is depicting, whether the loner hitchhiker harassed by cops on a freeway who is picked up by a trucker, his cab papered in glossy pictures of naked pin ups, or a debauch at a sex ranch whose reigning queen decides to film a sexually-oriented version of Christ's passion (her summation of the effort: "Blasphemy, I don't know, should be more droll") or a suburban couple entertaining another suburban couple or a couple spinning in a world conjured by crack cocaine, Wright is pitch perfect on details, on dialogue, on feelings, moods, atmosphere. This is a GREAT writer. He does what everybody is doing and yet he notches it up to the highest level. I don't understand why he isn't justly celebrated. In a hundred years when people want to feel what it was like to be alive in our time, this is the writer they will go to.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars An over-looked postmodern gem!,
This complex novel, roughly three hundred pages in length, follows the travels of Wylie Jones. Jones has the current cliché American Dream: a wife, two kids, nice house, nice job, nice car. Nonetheless, after witnessing the aftermath of a 7-11 murder, he decides to hit the road. As with all things in the novel, his reasons are ambiguous. He's hitting the road and heading for California, taking his sweet time getting there but heading steadily for it. In each place he goes, he finds himself trapped in a different reality, each one less pleasant than the last, until he finds himself, in an Eastern way, having gone full circle.
And yet the story is told not from the Jones' perspective, but instead from the perspective of a series of characters whose lives intersect his. The first chapter is told by his wife, the next by the crack dealer he steals the 69 Galaxie from, the third by a serial-killer hitchhiker, and the fourth by a motel manager who wants nothing more in life than to write blockbusters. The fifth chapter follows an out-of-control, porn-star party; the sixth a Las Vegas lesbian couple; and the seventh the journey of man and wife B-movie stars to Indonesia in an attempt to cleanse their souls. Finally, this narrative collage ends centered on a man trapped in his Los Angeles life.
Each chapter reads more like a long short story than an episode of a novel, and that forms the weakest and most inaccessible aspect of the novel: if you're not careful, you may end up putting down a wonderful book because you think it's disjointed. But when you reach the end, the puzzle is solved; the main character is revealed and shown for what he really is.
We don't see this from his eyes until the end. We watch it from the eyes of the people around him, each of them searching for themselves inside of their lives. They all try to live their dreams, lead happy lives: ironically, the very thing that Wylie had to start with.
The book has more irony laced in it than an analysis of an acid trip, which, like Thomas Pynchon's 'Gravity's Rainbow' (1979), is exactly what it feels like. (The comparison between Wright and Pynchon is appropriate: this guy is in Pynchon's league.) Despite a tendency to write like a series of short stories, Stephen Wright has tales to tell and says them with loud, evocative prose that wards off boredom with a branding iron and makes you want to read more.
'Going Native' possesses both the crude, offensive, and blaring nature to hold the interest of a Stephen King fan as well as sufficient ironic wit, intelligence, and bizarre brilliance to keep those of us who finished Don DeLillo's 'Underworld' (1997) interested. Stephen Wright is in the vanguard of young postmodernists and 'Going Native' is an overlooked gem to add to your collection. (James Brundage)
3 of 3 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars near-perfect,
By A Customer
Quite simply, the best work of American fiction that I've read in a long time. This book can stand next to anything written by T. Morrison, D. DeLillo, T. Pynchon, et al. Wright touches on and discards more raw ideas than most writers hit on in several books.
4 of 5 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars gruesome, but superbly written,
I don't like horror or slasher movies and I read this book with trepidation for that reason. Indeed, there are some brutal passages and there is a fair amount of tension building up to these moments. This book seems to imply that our contemporary culture is somewhat sociopathological. It's narrative focus is on the underbelly and on the shallower, more empty parts of the non-underbelly.
This 'novel' is structured as a series of short stories that have one character in common. This character often does not get a lot of 'screen time' (the prose feels cinematic), but is crucial to each climax. The identity of this character is enigmatic: you are never sure of his identity, but you become progressively more familiar with his nature.
I'm not sure if the author intends for this to be a representation of contemporary American culture or not. If so, then it is in the form of a cautionary tale. If not, then it may be a sort of egghead version of the slasher picture, which is artful, but odd. There is much rumination about identity here: its frailty, its mutability, its destruction. A scary book where light is the absence of shadow.
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Going Native by Stephen Wright (Paperback - April 12, 2005)