Friday, January 30, 2009


Wake up, America! There's a great novelist in your midst and you've never even heard of him. Stephen Wright (not to be confused with the brilliant deadpan comic with a similar name) has over the past 25 years produced four brilliant, polished, masterful novels: Meditations in Green, M25: A Family Romance, Going Native and The Amalgamation Polka. Check them out.

Wright's first novel, 1983's Meditations in Green, shows us a writer with talent to burn. An essentially plotless, atmospheric book with a fast, jagged rhythm, this 'synoptic' Vietnam novel may stand alongside Michael Herr's Dispatches, a masterpiece of 20th century American literature, as one of the very best books about the war. The book is a showcase for Wright's lyrical prose and fearless imagination. In addition to showing us the casual brutality and institutionalized sadism of the war (there's an indelible description of a field 'interrogation' using a crank telephone), Wright also takes us back home, showing us the men who, after the war, continued to fight it in their minds on the streets of America. This is a very, very good novel, wonderful and rich, knowing and ironic, and its author deserves a little recognition beyond his miniscule 'cult' following--if he even has that. If such a cult does exist, count me in. Wright's talent is on a level with Don DeLillo's and Robert Stone's, and he deserves to be at least as well-known and well-rewarded as they.

No comments: