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Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust (New Edition) (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – June 23, 2009
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Intrusion: A Novel
A loving couple, grieving the loss of their son, finds their marriage in free fall when a beautiful, long-lost acquaintance inserts herself into their lives. Learn More
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From the Inside Flap
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."
Top Customer Reviews
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
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.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
West no doubt saw himself as a serious writer, but he was earning a living by writing scripts for B- or C movies. I think he wrote this to justify his position. Read morePublished 8 days ago by Geoff White
Truly imaginative, a very brilliant novella even by today's standards, but heck, our standards are bargain basement, aren't they? Read morePublished 10 days ago by B. Sting
West definitely joins the pantheon of most underrated writing geniuses.Published 2 months ago by ralph caiazzo
Terrible formatting, typos, small text, etc... Need I say more? (I am reffering to "important books" publishing) This is otherwise one of the greatest novels I've ever had... Read morePublished 4 months ago by Andy
The editing and formatting of the book leaves something to be desired with numerous misspellings and strange formatting of paragraphs with random paragraph breaks mid sentence.Published 4 months ago by Beach Dweller
Unsympathetic characters in a story that goes nowhere. If you like character studies then you'd probably like this book - otherwise I'd pass.Published 4 months ago by Amazon Customer
Whoever proofed this printing of the book did a miserable job of it. There were dozens of typographical errors, many of which were difficult to spot in their given context. Read morePublished 4 months ago by T. Lemieux
One of the least enjoyable books I have ever read. How could it be included in a list of the 100 greatest novels?Published 5 months ago by Richard Maierle
This is a terrible edition of a classic novel. I bought this book with the intention of keeping it on my shelf, but this edition appears to be a cheap printing from a PDF or... Read morePublished 5 months ago by Garrett Williams