Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locustby Nathanael West
"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… See more details below
"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.
- New Directions Publishing Corporation
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Nate West is now a recognized author whose work is currently being picked apart in college courses everywhere (as some people who have already read at least one of the two stories will attest), but West died virtually unknown in a carwreck that also claimed the life of his wife as they were rushing home to mourn the death of friend F. Scott Fitzgerald. His body of work, while small, shows him as one of the greatest American authors we've ever come across and these two books are his proudest achievements. So much attention has been given to Locust over the years, and while I don't mean to write off discussion on that, I'd rather give mention to Miss Lonelyhearts, a personal favorite. Miss Lonelyhearts is actually a male newspaper columnist, a la Dear Abbey, whose work is to comfort and console readers whose very existence is so sad and tragic that often a flat, out of the can response is all Lonely can give them. We see Lonelyhearts suffer with personal frustration and professional disinterest as he deals with a cast of characters that are as varied as his readers, and themes of sex and violence, art and culture, religion and politics are offered for speculation but never outwardly dissected. The prose, beautifully written, is a narrative of Lonely's day to day life, interjected with letters from his readers. The ability at how West manages to give each reader in the story such individual context and identity makes you wonder if the letters themselves couldn't be real and authentic. It should also be noted that West was a surrealist (or at least intrigued with the subject) and the displays of surrealism in both stories are some of the best you can find in American literature for that period, or, arguably, so far. Dark and moody, hardboiled. Of particular interest to gay readers for an early to mid 20th century representation of homosexual characters and themes (gender role play anyone?) during a conservative time.