Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

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Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust are his masterful expressions of stunted dreams. The novels unfold between the two American centers of opportunity ...
-Open Letters Monthly

Synopsis

"A primer for Big Bad City disillusionment, unsparing in its portrayal of New York's debilitating entropy."—The Village Voice. With a new introduction by Jonathan Lethem.


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. Set in New York during the Depression and 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 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.



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) among the best novels written about Hollywood. Set in Hollywood during the Depression, the narrator, Tod Hackett, comes to California in the hope of a career as a painter for movie backdrops but soon joins the disenchanted second-rate actors, technicians, laborers and other characters living on the fringes of the movie industry. Tod tries to seduce Faye Greener; she is seventeen. Her protector is an old man named Homer Simpson. Tod finds work on a film called prophetically “The Burning of Los Angeles,” and the dark comic tale ends in an apocalyptic mob riot outside a Hollywood premiere, as the system runs out of control.
 

About Nathanael West

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In 1940, when an automobile accident prematurely claimed Nathanael West's life, he was a relatively obscure writer, the author of only four short novels. West's reputation has grown considerably since then and he is now considered one of the 20th century's major authors. Born in New York, West worked as the night manager of the Kenmore Hotel on East 23rd Street in Manhattan, as a contract scriptwriter for Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, and as a screenwriter for RKO Radio Picture. Jonathan Lethem is the author of six novels, including the bestsellers The Fortress of Solitude and Motherless Brooklyn, which won the National Book Critics Circle Award. He lives in Brooklyn and Maine.
 
Published June 23, 2009 by New Directions. 212 pages
Genres: Literature & Fiction, Cooking. Fiction
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Critic reviews for Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust
All: 4 | Positive: 3 | Negative: 1

Blog Critics

Above average
Reviewed by Karl Wolff on May 29 2010

In little over 180 pages, the reader encounters ferocious black humor, hard-boiled surrealism, and apocalyptic visions. Nathanael West belongs to the family of innovative literary Modernists like T.S. Eliot, Samuel Beckett, and William Faulkner.

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Open Letters Monthly

Above average
Reviewed by Ingrid Norton on Jan 12 2011

Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust are his masterful expressions of stunted dreams. The novels unfold between the two American centers of opportunity ...

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The Paris Review

Above average
Reviewed by Nicole Rudick on Sep 24 2010

The undercurrent of violence in the two novels, the way in which nearly every act and thought is awash in it, is startling. The characters in Miss Lonelyhearts are drowning in Prohibition booze...

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The Jewish Daily Forward

Above average
Reviewed by Ken Gordon on Dec 23 2009

West’s novels manage to be hilariously funny while remaining resolutely grim, in part due to his genius for stark and shocking violence and uncompromising exaggerations.

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