"West is still a satirist with few peers and no betters, and a writer of bleak, haunting power." — Kirkus Reviews. In this 1931 Dada-inspired work, the first novel of the author of Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust, the eponymous antihero stumbles across the Trojan Horse and climbs inside, embarking upon a dream within a dream. His journey through a mental jungle blends grandiose literary and religious allusions with erotic and scatological humor, as he encounters a contentious guide, a biographer writing a biography of a biographer, and a mystic trying to crucify himself with thumbtacks. Innovative and original, West's novel takes an unforgettable look at the dark side of the American dream. Unabridged republication of the classic 1931 edition.
The Day of the Locust is a novel about Hollywood and its corrupting touch, about the American dream turned into a sun-drenched California nightmare. Nathanael West's Hollywood is not the glamorous "home of the stars" but a seedy world of little people, some hopeful, some despairing, all twisted by their by their own desires -- from the ironically romantic artist narrator to a macho movie cowboy, a middle-aged innocent from America's heartland, and the hard-as-nails call girl would-be-star whom they all lust after. An unforgettable portrayal of a world that mocks the real and rewards the sham, turns its back on love to plunge into empty sex, and breeds a savage violence that is its own undoing, this novel stands as a classic indictment of all that is most extravagant and uncontrolled in American life.
Set in New York during the Great Depression, 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 in, begging him for advice. Unable to find answers, and with his shaky Christianity ridiculed to razor-edged shards by his poisonous editor, he tumbles into alcoholism and a madness fueled by his own spiritual emptiness.
About the Author
Nathanael West — novelist, screenwriter, playwright — was one of the most gifted and original writers of his generation, a comic artist whose insight into the brutalities of modern life would prove prophetic. He is famous for two masterpieces, Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and The Day of the Locust (1939). He died in a car crash in 1940, while returning to Los Angeles to attend the funeral of his friend F. Scott Fitzgerald.
Miss Lonelyhearts was a newspaper reporter, so named because he had been assigned to write the agony column, to answer the letters from Desperate, Sick-of-It-All, Disillusioned. A joke at first; but then he was caught up, terrifyingly, in a vision of suffering, and he sought a way out, turning first here, then there—Art, Sex, Religion. Shrike, the cynical editor, the friend and enemy, compulsively destroyed each of his friend’s gestures toward idealism. Together, in the city’s dim underworld, Shrike and Miss Lonelyhearts turn round and round in a loathsome dance, unresolvable, hating until death…
The Day of the Locust
To Hollywood comes Tod Hackett, hoping for a career in scene designing, but he finds the way hard and falls in with others—extras, technicians, old vaudeville hands—who are also in difficulty. Around him he sees the great mass of inland Americans who have retired to California in expectation of health and ease. But boredom consumes them, their own emptiness maddens them; they search out any abnormality in their lust for excitement—drugs, perversion, crime. In the end only blood will serve; unreasoned, undirected violence. The day of the locust is at hand…
Miss Lonelyhearts, published in 1933, is Nathanael West's second novel. It is an Expressionist black comedy set in New York City during the Great Depression.
"Money and fame meant nothing to them. They were not worldly men."
"Wildly funny, desperately sad, brutal and kind, furious and patient, there was no other like Nathanael West.”