Going All the Way
by Dan Wakefield
Foreword by Kurt Vonnegut, Afterword by Sara Davidson
A classic novel of the 1950s
"Going All The Way is the 'Catcher in the Rye' of the Midwest. Like all great books, it somehow manages to preserve the mood and texture and morality of its time and place. A bestseller in 1970, it is Dan Wakefield's most famous novel. It seethes with pent-up frustration and confusion, and nearly every episode bubbles with hilarity. It is a book that so perfectly captures its time and place that it transcends the specific and becomes universal, which is as good a definition as there is of a classic.
As one of our very best journalists in the past decade, Dan Wakefield has been conspicuous for two virtues: a novelist's instinct for the right detail, the gesture or glance which can tell more than a thousand words of interpretation; and then something even rarer, an intimate, yet never merely egocentric, scale of observation. He has always tried to maintain the tone of a personal deposition, and like his hero, Thoreau, "speak as a man in his waking moments to other men in their waking moments."At the same time, unlike the similarly ambitious Norman Mailer, he has avoided rhetorical boom and self-idolatry. He is closer to another of his heroes, Murray Kempton, and at least two of his reportorial collection, "Between the Lines" and "Supernation at Peace and War," are handbooks no young man or woman dreaming of a career in journalism should be without.
In his first novel "Going All The Way," he remains a sure observer. Again and again there are tableaux of root Americana that are as certain and exact as so many Goya etchings: middle-aged salesmen carousing in a bar, a Moral Rearmament peptalk, Sanforized newlyweds displaying the heir to their prefabricated ranch house, a countryclub poolside.
Around them flows a passionate and tormented novel about the summer of 1954 as it transpired in the lives of two young Korean War veterans returning to their Indianapolis homes.
To say that it is a very American story is true enough, but it would be more relevant to say that it is going to become even more so. Its central subject—the baffled despair of young men trying to reckon with middle class, material values in a world where they no longer suffice—is only beginning…it is possible that the current publishing season will produce no book more urgently felt."
—New York Time Book Review, August 9, 1970
"Wonderful, sad and funny; a scathing portrait of middle America through the eyes of a new fictional character who will inevitably be compared to Portnoy and Holden Caulfield."
"Reading Wakefield's novel feels, in some ways, like reading an anthropologist's notes on an extinct culture. And yet, below the surface quaintness—the talk about 'hard-ons' and 'Big Rods'—is a timeless story about young men and about America growing up."
—Sara Davidson, author of Loose Change: Three Women of the Sixties
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