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Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust (New Edition) (New Directions Paperbook) Paperback – June 23, 2009

3.8 out of 5 stars 169 customer reviews

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Editorial Reviews

Review

“In dark times, Miss Lonelyhearts shines the brightest light in the blackest places. For this reason West’s novel has never felt more alive than today.” (Nathaniel Rich - The Daily Beast)

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."
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Product Details

  • Series: New Directions Paperbook
  • Paperback: 208 pages
  • Publisher: New Directions; Original edition (June 23, 2009)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0811218228
  • ISBN-13: 978-0811218221
  • Product Dimensions: 5.2 x 0.6 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 7.2 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 3.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (169 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #42,432 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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: 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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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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