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Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust

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Book Overview

This description may be from another edition of this product. During his years in Hollywood West wrote The Day of the Locust , a study of the fragility of illusion. Many critics consider it with F. Scott Fitzgerald's unfinished masterpiece The Last Tycoon (1941)...

Customer Reviews

6 ratings

there is a reason why these two short books were banned

I have been meaning to read these two books ever since I realized that they had been banned for years, thereby increasing my interest. They are gritty, powerful books that throw no punches and give you a very clear picture of the underbelly of Los Angeles. These books are NOT for the faint of heart; and if you're looking for a happy ending you best look somewhere else. But if you want to read some exciting writing that cause much controversy - I recommend them highly.

Nathaniel West understood the darkness in man

Nerds or Nazis -- the mob rules. They all want blood -- and they're looking for ANY excuse to draw it. That's the point Nathaniel West drives home: for better or worse, the deep ugliness in man, the heart of darkness. In the book, the author writes how people in Hollywood would just hang out at the airport just hoping for a plane crash, praying for it, praying for any disaster that would color to their meaningless lives. The book ends with a mob scene at a film premiere where the protagonist is torn to shreds.Are we supposed to sympathize with Homer? Pity him, despise him? Nathaniel West seems to point out that no one is deserving of pity. Boy, that's hard! The author really understood the darkness in people, though.This is one tough book, which should not be read by anyone under 18. This reader is 40, and only now am I starting to glimpse at the point Nathaniel West was trying to make. This book is a true classic. Disturbing and unforgetable as all great books should be.Also recommended: The Losers' Club by Richard Perez

Two nearly perfect short novels

Just before his tragically young death, Nathanael West wrote a friend that he was confident his best work was in front of him. The genius and brilliance of these two remarkable short novels make that prospect seem unspeakably tragic. As it is, these two works have been sufficient to cement West?s reputation as one of America?s great literary talents of the 1930s. MISS LONELYHEARTS is perhaps the more highly acclaimed of the two, though many find THE DAY OF THE LOCUST perhaps even more entertaining. Either way, this volume contains two of the most remarkable short novels in American literary history.Nathanael West was an exceptionally dense writer, in that his pages contain no wasted words, no needless characters, and no pointless characters. Every sentence, every word, every comma plays an essential role in his work. Both works are distilled to their most concentrated form. As a result, although they are highly readable and brief, they contain far more content than even much longer books. Both of the books are littered with moments of devastating power. In MISS LONELYHEARTS, these are more intimate, deeply personal, miniature scenes. The same is true of THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, though it ends with one of the greatest crowd scenes this side of Tolstoy?s WAR AND PEACE. The riot scene ending the novel is so vivid, so clearly presented, so terrifying that one might legitimately argue that it is the greatest crowd scene in literature. On the other extreme, the opening letters at the beginning of MISS LONELYHEARTS are as heartbreaking as anything in literature. They are worthy of comparison with the most horrific examples of suffering that Ivan in THE BROTHERS KARAMAZOV (a book that Miss Lonelyhearts reads and West loved) comes up with when talking with his brother Alyosha. These are not happy books. West was one of the foremost spokesmen for pessimism of the early 20th century. At the time of his death, however, he was working on a novel that, he claimed, was far less negative and dealt with ?the Milk of Human Kindness.? But in these two, the misery of individual lives and the ultimate meaningless of the lives of all the characters can depress some readers. There are no admirable characters, no one that we can pull for sympathetically. There are, however, some astonishingly vivid characters?Miss Lonelyhearts, his editor Shrike, Tod Hackett, Faye Greener, or Homer Simpson (Matt Groening has indicated awareness of that character). But if one can handle the unrelieved tragedy and the hopelessness that pervade West?s pages, one will find these to be two gloriously original and unique masterpieces.

Nightmare America

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.Like much of West's work, these two novels are written in a comic style that the author deliberately and quickly sours: laughter quickly gives way to despair, despair to surreal horror, and all of it condensed into tightly written, noir-ish, and double-gritty prose that has the impact of a wrecking ball. West is not a writer for every one, not by a long shot, but his power is undeniable, and these two works are his best, essentials in American literature. But brace yourself: they offer one-way tickets going straight down all the way.

A Brilliant work of art

Perhaps one of the greatest novels ever written, Miss Lonleyhearts hurts the mind and soul with its uncompromising intensity and overwhelming authenticity. West's reflections on life and human relationships are simultaniously philosophical and absurd, and in the end leave the reader shell-shocked. It would be difficult to summarize in any way this novel's message or describe its impact on modern fiction.

Miss Lonelyhearts begs to be read by you

This conveniently thrifty Nathanael West collection sat on my bookshelf for a few weeks, and I kept taking peeks at it. It just kept looking at me. I gave in to this seduction eventually and read Miss Lonelyhearts (this was a few weeks ago, and I still haven't read Day of the Locust). Most New Directions paperbacks are pretty ugly (sue me, I'm a jacket admirer), and this one is too, but in a very compelling way. But the novel is a million times more so. I'd read a bit about it before, and knew that both Flannery O'Connor and F. Scott Fitzgerald were admirers of West's, and the premise sounded like my kind of book, so I couldn't help working myself into a fit about it. This was a rare instance for me -- generally when I'm excited about reading a book beforehand, it's a let down, usually not because it's a poor book, but because my expectations were too high. But nope, not with Miss Lonelyhearts. Yes, okay, so it's a black comedy, yes it's an "absurdist" work of art, but not in a juvenile or self-conscious way (ahem, ahem, Salvador Dali). It works better than others because it doesn't occur to you that it's dead serious until you're thinking about it later in the middle of the night fighting insomnia. While reading, you're too busy snortin' and guffawin' to give a good god damn about its "relevance" or its "theme". But it is a novel to be taken seriously, even if it is laugh-out-loud hilarious and if it's as accessible as a glass of milk. I'm tempted to give away some of the more dreadful or ridiculous parts, but I won't, just anticipate reading some over the top Dear Abby letters and a brilliant and horrifying book wrapped around them.
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