Going Nativeby Stephen Wright
Pub. Date: 04/12/2005
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
This extraordinary work that was met with both critical and popular acclaim in hardcover reads like a frightening, resonant nineties version of Jack Kerouac's On The Road. Author Stephen Wright transports readers from the claustrophobia of the suburbs to the freedom of the open road and the pursuit of the American dreamor nightmarein this remarkable novel that reveals the darkest side of our civilized society. It begins with the story of Wylie Jones, a nice man who walks out of a backyard barbecue and embarks on a postmodern adventure of disturbing proportions. Stealing his neighbor's Ford Galaxy 500, he traverses a country filled with unexpected turmoilwhere crackheads lurk in the suburbs, a lesbian couple run a Las Vegas wedding chapel, and a fabulous L.A. dinner party is blown to bits. By turns scathing and hilarious, outrageous and on-target Going Native is the story of one man's odyssey into the heart of darkness at the center of contemporary American life.
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Stephen Wright is an extraordinarily gifted writer who has been entirely under-read by the general public. This is a tragedy. Wright studied at the famed Iowa Writer's Workshop, taught with the likes Toni Morrison and Russell Banks, and has written two other amazing novels, Mediations in Green and M31: A Family Romance. In this brutal look at this culture and its obsessions, Wright turns a virtuoso artist's skill with language loose on an unsuspecting world, probing deeply into the darkest corner of the human psyche without apology. His protagonist is a psychopath he will not ever let you truly meet; the arbitrariness of his actions is painfully contrasted with the pain or violence he leaves behind on others. Wright's meticulous descriptions of some of the shadiest landscapes of America, countered by hilarious and realistic dialogue, produce a penetrating and thought-provoking work of fiction. The terrible climactic scene near the novel's end, occuring in the comfort of an unlucky couple's seemingly peaceful residence, is the kind of conclusion you want to turn away from, but thanks to Wright's grip on your heart - throat - you cannot. If you have the stomach for it, read this novel: Wright knows art is about truth, and this is the truest look at life in a secular, unfeeling culture you can find on the shelves. All praise due to Vintage for reprinting this superb writer's work.