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Miss Lonelyhearts & the Day of the Locust Paperback – June, 1969

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Editorial Reviews


A primer for Big Bad City disillusionment, unsparing in its portrayal of New York's debilitating entropy. -- Darren Reidy, The Village Voice, 31 December 2003

As bleak and as darkly coming as any novel of West's era or of ours. -- Max Apple, Jewish Literary Supplement, Fall 2004

From the Inside Flap

"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.
   "The work of Nathanael West, savagely, comically, tragically original, has come into its own," said novelist and screenwriter Budd Schulberg. "A new public [has] discovered in the writings of West a brilliant reflection of its own sense of chaos and helplessness in a world running more to madness than to reason." --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Paperback: 185 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions (June 1969)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811202151
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811202152
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.2 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (83 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #534,427 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews

77 of 83 people found the following review helpful By Gary F. Taylor HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on June 13, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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27 of 28 people found the following review helpful By Robert Moore HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on November 7, 2002
Format: Paperback
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.
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25 of 26 people found the following review helpful By Debbie Lee Wesselmann TOP 100 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on January 13, 2004
Format: Paperback
Nathanael West had a brief, barely noticed career before his sudden death in 1940. These two novellas, MISS LONELYHEARTS and THE DAY OF THE LOCUST, stand as his best-known contributions to literature, classics that are now widely taught in American high schools and universities. MISS LONELYHEARTS is the more bitter of the two: a newspaper columnist (a man, but always referred to as Miss Lonelyhearts) suffers a crisis of conscience and spirit under the emotional weight of the mail he receives. His colleagues make fun of the correspondents, who are mostly women, but Miss Lonelyhearts sees the pathetic futility in their seeking help to escape their bleak lives. His editor, Shrike, tries to energize Miss Lonelyhearts with long-winded diatribes satirizing religious beliefs, but their shrillness pushes Miss Lonelyhearts toward the edge. Using Christian imagery as well as irony, West evokes a world of alienation, futility, and human failings.
THE DAY OF THE LOCUST comes across as more satiric than shrill, perhaps because there is no Shrike here, although West's trademark themes of alienation and futility are fully evident. Tod Hackett is new to Hollywood; he is lazy but ambitious, a painter who hopes to earn a living as a set designer. Tod finds himself drawn to the outsiders of Hollywood, the lower classes, those for whom success is always out of reach. The characters are almost surreal in their quirkiness. Aspiring actress Faye Greener lives in the same building as Tod; by introducing Tod to the vapid decadence of Hollywood, she awakens Tod's violent impulses. Iowan Homer Simpson is a listless, repressed man who has come to California not for show business but for health reasons and to forget what little sexuality he has.
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