Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust

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New Directions Publishing, 1969 - Fiction - 185 pages
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"Somehow or other I seem to have slipped in between all the 'schools, '" observed Nathanael West the year before his untimely death in 1940. "My books meet no needs except my own, their circulation is practically private and I'm lucky to be published." Yet today, West is widely recognized as a prophetic writer whose dark and comic vision of a society obsessed with mass-produced fantasies foretold much of what was to come in American life. Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), which West envisioned as "a novel in the form of a comic strip, " tells of an advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist who becomes tragically embroiled in the desperate lives of his readers. The Day of the Locust (1939) is West's great dystopian Hollywood novel based on his experiences at the seedy fringes of the movie industry.

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It's very difficulte to handle. Well, I read this book because of my english class. Its shows great reality of hollywood, but at some point its very hard to image what the author saying about artificiality and viloance in Hollywood made me stop and think how we, as a socitey spoil our nation. At the age of 17th, it was very hard for me to read and understand about the Dream of Hollywood. Still, it has awsome ideas and the way author protrai the reality was good. I really enjoy and yes also struggled lot but thanks to my teacher who helped me to understand and think about it.! 

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The two short novels in this book were originally published in the '30s so the action takes presumably takes place in the '20s. Nathanael West was a brilliant writer way ahead of his time.
The Day
of the Locust may well be the best novel ever written about Hollywood. In those days many great writers worked for the new motion picture industries in Hollywood. The novel is about people who have come to Hollywood chasing their dreams. To survive in the tawdry real world they have to exploit their own and others dreams. They are always acting and pretending to suffer, even when they are really suffering. For example, while Harry Greener the old vaudeville clown tries to peddle his silverware polish by pretending to be ill he has a heart attack. Although the heart attack is real, he continues to "act" sick while he almost dies. Everyone's behavior is affected by the presence of an audience.
The theme underlying both of these novels, and more explicitly in Miss Lonelyhearts is the question of loneliness and suffering. Why do so many people suffer and why can't the comfort each other?

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About the author (1969)

American novelist Nathanael West was born in New York City, the son of a prosperous building contractor. He began his college education at Tufts University but transferred to Brown University, from which he graduated in 1924. After graduation, West went to Europe and lived in Paris for a few years, where he wrote the short novel The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931), an avant--garde work that reflected his concern with the emptiness of contemporary life. West's modest legacy of completed works reached its peak of recognition during the period when later Jewish American writers were discovering black humor. Among novels that chronicle the wasteland despair and grotesque comedy of the time between the wars, West's Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and The Day of the Locust (1939) stand out as remarkable examples. The first is about a young man conducting a column of advice to the lovelorn who finds it increasingly impossible not to share the problems of his readers. The Day of the Locust story about a riot that ends with the burning of Los Angeles. If Franz Kafka (see Vol. 2) had lived to come to the United States and become a screenwriter, he might have written a book like The Day of the Locust, which Malcolm Cowley called the best novel ever written about Hollywood. West's other short novel, A Cool Million (1934), is, like The Dream Life of Balso Snell, an experimental work that offers variations on the theme of reality and illusion; both works look toward a literature of the absurd and deserve their place in literary history as influences on a school of American writers that came into prominence during the 1960s. West's own life had aspects of tragic absurdity. He was married to Eileen McKenney, the original of the central figure in My Sister Eileen, while his own sister became the wife of humorist S. J. Perelman. After writing Miss Lonelyhearts, West and his wife went to Hollywood and remained there until they were both killed in a car accident in 1940.

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