Thursday, 31 December 2009

going native (w stephen wright)

It's New Year's Eve. Thoughts turn to friends, family, the diaspora both national, international and temporal. None of which has much to do with Going Native. Save perhaps for the fact it's deeply rooted in the States and was read in India by an Englishman. In this instance.

As a book it befuddled me. This may have been because I was befuddled by the sub-continent. But I'd like to think it's because I assumed it was a novel, reached the second chapter, found no connection with the first, and it then took me about two more to realise that it was in fact a collection of short stories. The fact that you can move from one chapter into another and not realise that is not a novel has something to do with an abrupt switch in styles, as Wright moves from a fairly regulation sub-Updike register into something altogether more hallucinogenic. His versatility would appear to be both a strength and a weakness, as Going Native darts between various tonal frequencies, never allowing the reader to settle, constantly searching for patterns. Perhaps it might be said that he appears on occasion to be trying a little too hard. From Updike to Burroughs via Pynchon and who knows what else proves skill, but doesn't make for an unbefuddling read. Or maybe it was just the sub-continent.

Happy New Year, both to readers and non-readers, those who are real, those who might be ghosts, and those who are ghosts.

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