GOING NATIVE by Stephen Wright


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 America is a bad trip. Hit the road at your peril. Stay home and the TV/VCR will mess up your mind. Hollywood is the nexus. These sentiments percolate through Wright's slippery third novel (Meditations in Green, l983; M31: A Family Romance, 1988) that emphasizes randomness at the expense of plotting and character development. In an upscale Chicago suburb, Rho Jones, mother of two, has entered daiquiri heaven after giving a successful dinner-party- -during which husband Wylie has vanished. A few houses away storeowner Mister CD and his girlfriend Latisha, crackheads both, are sharing a pipe when Mister CD realizes his old Ford Galaxie 500 has gone. Wylie, an average man without attributes, has crossed the line ``into a quickening night of absolute freedom'' that will begin with auto theft and continue with murder. We won't meet those suburbanites again, and we won't see much of Wylie either; driver and car will reappear briefly, like an artist's signature, in a variety of other slice-of-life episodes. The more memorable of these feature a hitchhiker (another highway killer); the habituÇ of a Denver SRO; and a Hollywood couple seeking an authentic jungle experience in Indonesian Borneo. Wylie murders the filmmaker and executes the Hollywood pair (celebrating their return from Borneo) before acquiring another wife and a Pacific view. But this is not a novel about a serial killer; Wright is assembling a portrait of a culture irredeemably passive, tacky and corrupt, whose influence has girdled the world. The former headhunters of Borneo watch their treasured Batman video as intently as do the crackheads back in Chicago. Wright's novel packs no narrative punch (only in Borneo does the story roll); it aims to resonate through a pattern of recurring images, but while always alert and intelligent, it never quite becomes the powerful indictment Wright may have hoped for.

Pub Date: Jan. 24th, 1994
ISBN: 0-374-16490-8
Page count: 320pp
Publisher: Farrar, Straus and Giroux
Review Posted Online:
Kirkus Reviews Issue: Oct. 15th, 1993


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