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Paperback A Cool Million and the Dream Life of Balso Snell : Two Novels Book

ISBN: 0374502927

ISBN13: 9780374502928

A Cool Million and the Dream Life of Balso Snell : Two Novels

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Format: Paperback

Condition: Very Good

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Book Overview

A Cool Million (1934) subtitled "The Dismantling of Lemuel Pitkin", is a satiric Horatio Alger story set in the midst of the Depression and is written in a bracing, mock-heroic style that has lost none of its wit or power. The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931), West's first work, was described by one delighted critic as "a fantasy about some rather scatalogical adventures of the hero in the innards of the Trojan Horse."

Customer Reviews

4 ratings

"A Cool Million" is The Great American Political Satire

While "Balso Snell" is funny in a late-Mark Twain kind of way, the real reason to buy this book is "A Cool Million," the Great American Political Satire. Written in the 1930's (and if you know anything about the wacko American Right of that decade, you'll realize that West is not exaggerrating too much) "A Cool Million" still packs a satirical punch. This is probably because, unfortunately, the right-wing wackos West skewers have now taken over the American asylum...

"A Cool Million": A Stomach Churning Satire

Former President of the United States Nathan "Shagpoke" Whipple, now C.E.O. of the Rat River National Bank of the town of Ottsville, Vermont, tells young Lemuel Pitkin, "The story of (John D.) Rockefeller and of (Henry) Ford is the story of every great American...Like them, you were born poor and on a farm. Like them, by honesty and industry, you cannot fail to succeed."With this advice in hand thus begins Lem's journey to secure his fortune and to prevent the foreclosure on his mother's house. The only collateral Lem can put up for the tiny loan he obtains from Whipple's bank is the family cow. After all, according to the ex-President, you must have some money in order to make money."A Cool Million" is Nathanael West's mordantly witty and deeply bitter satire of a decent, but profoundly naive young man's attempts to achieve the American Dream during the darkest days of the Great Depression. West effectively lampoons the false promise of the old maxim that hard work and diligence equals success in America. For all his determination, Lem suffers one horrible indignity after another and is ripped to shreds in the process. A pawn in a facist plot to take over New York City, his final achievement is an unintended martyrdom.The only thing that prevents me from giving this small gem a 5 star review is the constant feeling of dread that I felt in the pit of my stomach while reading this extraordinarily disturbing novella.

"A Cool Million" is great!

Having read all four of West's novels, I feel that "A Cool Million" is easily the greatest of his works. It presents a sarcastic and cynical view of life in America during the 1930's. The novel is, by the way, a modernization of "Candide," by Voltaire, and it is still fresh after sixty-five years. West is second only to Mark Twain in identifying and attacking society's corruption and vices. The book only gets four stars, however, because it also includes West's worst novel, "The Dream Life of Balso Snell," which is a complete waste of his talents. "Balso Snell" is completely disjointed and unorganized. The main character wanders around inside of a wooden horse and meets various allegorical losers. Now you do not have to read "Balso Snell", because I have just told you the entire story. That the author could produce two works which are such polar opposites in quality and readability is surprising. Buy this book for "Cool Million" - you will not regret it!

a book sure to cheer up even the most bitter of hearts

You know that intellectojerk that you went to school with, the 'tortured artist' kid? He wrote a book; and, boy, is it good! Read it to your kids while they're falling asleep.
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