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The Day of the Locust (Signet Classics)

3.4 out of 5 stars 82 customer reviews
ISBN-13: 978-0451523488
ISBN-10: 0451523482
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Editorial Reviews


Novel by Nathanael West about the savagery lurking beneath the Hollywood dream. Published in 1939, it is one of the most striking examples of the "Hollywood novel" in American fiction. Tod Hackett, a set designer, becomes involved in the lives of several individuals who have been warped by their proximity to the artificial world of Hollywood. Hackett's completion of his painting "The Burning of Los Angeles" coincides with the explosion of the other characters' unfulfilled dreams in a conflagration of riot and murder. --The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature --This text refers to the Hardcover edition.

About the Author

Nathanael West (1903-1940) - original name Nathan Weinstein (until 1926) American writer who died in a car crash at thirty-seven. Nathanael West published four novels. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

Product Details

  • Series: Signet Classics
  • Mass Market Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: Signet Classics (September 6, 1983)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0451523482
  • ISBN-13: 978-0451523488
  • Product Dimensions: 4.4 x 0.6 x 7 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 1.6 ounces
  • Average Customer Review: 3.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (82 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #857,057 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Customer Reviews

Top Customer Reviews

Format: Mass Market Paperback
"The Day of the Locust" is about the strange, disparate people that invariably get drawn to Los Angeles in the 1930's, a time when studios put out assembly-line low-budget movies and employed revolving crews of extras, writers, and various technicians. The novel seems influenced by Sherwood Anderson's "Winesburg, Ohio" in its portrayal of "grotesques," emotionally or behaviorally defective people on the fringe of society, but its tone is much more vibrant and frenetic; if "Winesburg, Ohio" is a petting zoo, "The Day of the Locust" is a three-ring circus.
At the center of the action is an artist and scene designer named Tod Hackett. He observes southern California with a sort of concerned detachment; he sees it as a wasteland of incongruous, tacky architecture and rootless people who come here to die. His discontent is manifested in his extracurricular plan to paint a canvas called "The Burning of Los Angeles."
Even though Tod may be considered the main character, he's the least interesting member of the cast; he's like the "straight man" in a comedy team. He's in love with an aspiring actress and occasional prostitute named Faye Greener who likes to use men. She has managed to hook a shy, lonely unemployed hotel bookkeeper named Homer Simpson (!) who moved to L.A. from Iowa for his health. Homer has compulsively fidgety hands and occasionally even exhibits the simplemindedness of his bald, mustard-colored cartoon namesake. Faye is also attracted to a lanky cowboy named Earle Shoop who works in a Sunset Boulevard saddlery store, does occasional movie work, and doesn't seem to know he's a caricature.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
Locust does a great job of showing the ugly side of the shiny veneer of Hollywood. The book deals with lust, desire, hope, disappointment, failure, rage, and death. To avoid being misleading, I should say that the movie business is not the front and center story here. The interpersonal relationships between a woman and her father and her suitors is the main plotline. Hollywood acts as a backdrop.

Faye is a failed actress who only gets work as an extra, and Homer and Todd are just two of the men who are drunk with desire for her.

This alternates with The Sound and the Fury for my favorite book. I've read it 3 times, which is as much as I've read any book.

...Locust is a quick read and never boring. Check out the movie too.
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Format: Hardcover
I've read all of West's other novels - The Dream Life of Balso Snell, A Cool Million, Miss Lonelyhearts - and all three seemed to miss something that is hard for me to explain. A little two-dimensional, a little hollow. Neither the characters nor the novels themselves seemed to be totally fleshed out. But The Day of the Locust is different. And ultimately I think it is on this novel that West's reputation will either rise or fall.
This book will really live with you long after you've read it. I can easily bring to mind that spectacular cockfight (a fine bit of descriptive writing), Faye's teasing, Harry Greener, the midget, the scene in the nightclub when the cross-dresser sings, and that final horrific scene when the riot breaks out in LA. You can skip West's other novels and you won't be very deprived, but The Day of the Locust is not to be missed.
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Format: Mass Market Paperback
The fact that The Day of the Locust was published in 1939, would, I thought, make it a bit too dated or old-fashioned to enjoy. Happily, I was wrong. Nathanael West's novel is like a well-oiled and maintained Disney ride, guaranteed to educate, amuse and thrill. We climb in the car and enter a tunnel into a world that is, of course, gone forever. Truly an insider's novel, the parasitic Todd lives in the bowels of the many-headed Hollywood beast, but he is not "of it." He comes to Hollywood to work as a studio artist and is too smart to be trapped by all the fascinating things he sees, especially the beautiful Faye. This sets him apart from the drifters, dreamers and pensioners who have been drawn by the allure and glitter. On a smaller scale, Faye IS Hollywood, drawing men close to eventually destroy them much like the lizard hiding in the plant in Homer's house patiently waiting for the next foolish fly to light on the plant's flowers. The only thing in the novel that disappointed me, and only a little, was the dearth of information about Homer Simpson (not that one). I wanted to know more about this polite, quiet and stoic Midwesterner. We know he came west for his health, but why does he invite Faye to live with him? Why does he put up with the abuse? Then I remembered that West was writing before the age of Freud, before the good doctor's psychoanalysis became the normative tool; people were the way they were ... just because. It was `in the blood', or they `took after the father', whatever. Pre-Freud writers gave their characters no breaks for having had a mamma that didn't love them, except perhaps, just a passing mention of the fact.

The secondary characters are fascinating in their brazenness and crudeness; you can almost smell them.
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