Largely unknown during his brief lifetime, Nathanael West is now regarded as one of the finest authors of the 1930s--a writer whose slashing satires of American decay are so dead-on accurate that they are often painful to read. This is particularly true of his two best works, MISS LONELYHEARTS and THE DAY OF THE LOCUST. Both novels are short and intense, and both present horrific visions of American society choking to death on its own mass-media fantasies.
Probably West's most powerful work, MISS LONELYHEARTS concerns a nameless man assigned to produce a newspaper advice column--but as time passes he begins to break under the endless misery of those who write to him for advice. Unable to find answers, and with his shaky Christianity ridiculed into destruction by his poisonous editor, he tumbles into a madness fueled by his own spiritual emptiness. First published in 1933, MISS LONELYHEARTS remains one of the most shocking works of 20th Century American literature, as unnerving as a glob of black bile vomited up at a church social, empty, blasphemous, and horrific.
THE DAY OF THE LOCUST is the best known of West's works, and presents the story of a Hollywood art designer as he drifts through the California dream factory--a place in which reality exists only as something to subvert into a saleable commodity: an addictive series of dreams that won't come true for the increasing numbers of malcontents that crowd Los Angeles in search of the fantasies seen on the movie screen. And their seething disillusionment proves more deadly than even Hollywood could ever imagine. First published in 1939, THE DAY OF THE LOCUST is still considered the single most scathing novel ever written about Hollywood.
Truly, truly great...a bit depressing but way ahead of his time!
Is all of this supposed to be real, or is much of the story occurring merely in the mind of the protagonist? Miss Lonelyhearts is actually a young mana journalistassigned to write responses to letters from desperate people. He seeks a way of distancing himself from the worlds problems, while at the same time experiencing his own desperation. The ending is not what he expected.
The Day of the Locust
Ah, life in Hollywood: for many a life of rejuvenation and ease in the California sunshine. But is it? Our hero in this one longs to be a scene designer for the motion picture industry. Boy, is he to be disillusioned. But, he soon finds that he isnt alone. Follow him as he exposes for you all of the perverted, behind the scene melodrama of Hollywood at its customary worst. As in Miss Lonelyhearts, he gets more than he bargained for in the end.
Miss Lonelyhearts was a disappointment; The Day of the Locust somewhat better - West's description of a Hollywood back lot was priceless.
I love the man's writing style and narrative voice, even as I hated the ending of "The Day of the Locust." In any case, this really is one of those classics of the realm of literature, even as it is not necessarily the easiest or most purely entertaining reading. Still, the characters and story are finely and deeply crafted, and it is definitely well worth the time taken reading it.
I ordered this book for my daughter and while she said she enjoyed the book, she thought this was a confusing read. She usually blogs about the books she likes but said she couldn't think of anything to say about this particular book.