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The Day of the Locust
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The Day of the Locust

3.8 of 5 stars 3.80  ·  rating details  ·  11,872 ratings  ·  371 reviews
The Day of the Locust is a novel about Hollywood and its corrupting touch, about the American dream turned into a sun-drenched California nightmare. Nathaniel West's Hollywood is not the glamorous "home of the stars" but a seedy world of little people, some hopeful, some desparing, all twisted by their by their own desires -- from the ironically romantic artist narrator to...more
Paperback, 208 pages
Published September 6th 1983 by Signet Classics (first published 1939)
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The Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Day of the Locust by Nathanael WestLess Than Zero by Bret Easton EllisWhite Oleander by Janet FitchTo Live and Drink in L.A. by Ben Peller
Los Angeles
2nd out of 185 books — 126 voters
Of Mice and Men by John SteinbeckEast of Eden by John SteinbeckThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckThe Joy Luck Club by Amy TanThe Maltese Falcon by Dashiell Hammett
Novels Set in California
11th out of 358 books — 199 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Jessica
Jul 28, 2009 Jessica rated it 3 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: if ya wanna be in pictures!
As some of you know, I came dangerously close to packing it in and moving to Los Angeles this winter. I'm from California originally, but the other California, up the Five a ways and then off to the left.... Where I grew up people speak of LA in the same disgusted, dismissive, and morbidly fascinated tones they used to talk about Michael Jackson before he died. The Bay Area is majorly creeped-out by the weirdo plastic-surgery-disaster-of-dubious-morals that is Los Angeles. We hate it for its car...more
Paquita Maria Sanchez
I am recommending this book to you because you should read it. It is set in 2012 America, as you can see from this quote:

Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, war. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges can’t ti...more
Glenn Russell
If I were to pick a novel that is the Great American Novel, I think I would pick The Day of the Locust by Nathaniel West. Why? West's short novel speaks to what every single American has to deal with -- the falsehood of Hollywood, the ultimate con, the complete fake, the billion dollar illusion, shoved in everybody's face, like it or not.

As Nathaniel West captured so brilliantly, once anything or anyone is in Hollywood, there is no escape from being converted into artificiality - even a wooden c...more
Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Rating: 3* of five

The Publisher Says: The Day of the Locust is a novel about Hollywood and its corrupting touch, about the American dream turned into a sun-drenched California nightmare. Nathaniel West's Hollywood is not the glamorous "home of the stars" but a seedy world of little people, some hopeful, some desparing, all twisted by their by their own desires—from the ironically romantic artist narrator to a macho movie cowboy, a middle-aged innocent from America's heartland, and the hard-as-n...more
Tfitoby
It's both well written and enjoyable. I'd never heard of this book until it appeared on my recommendations shelf and I've been trying to figure out why, especially as I then found two copies on the shelf at work. Not to mention how very impressive it was.

I guess there's only so much room for American literature from the thirties to have lasting worldwide appeal through to 2012. It was never on any syllabus I ever read that's for sure. Perhaps it should be. Depression era Hollywood certainly seem...more
Kemper
A grim little tale of a pack of losers leading sad and desperate lives in L.A. in the 1930's. Tod is an artist with a job at one of the movie studios, and he's in lust with Faye, a wannabe actress with no talent and a sick father, who has made it clear that she has no interest in Tod, but that doesn't stop her from teasing him. Homer Simpson (Bear in mind that this was written before Matt Groening was even born.) is a yokel in from Iowa who came to California for his health who apparently has so...more
Brad
Book 130. The last book in my 2011 goodreads Reading Challenge

Just before I started reading The Day of the Locust, I read something that compared Nathanael West favourably to Hemingway and Fitzgerald, suggesting that his proper place was amongst the literary elite of his day.

I kept a watchful eye open for anything that hinted at a quality on par with Papa or Scott, but once the book started to take shape, I found myself trying, instead, to find a comparison that could accurately describe how it...more
Malcolm David Logan
Jan 05, 2008 Malcolm David Logan rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: readers of modern American literature.
Nathaniel West's examination of the vain, desperate, self-deluded hangers-on at the fringes of Hollywood is perhaps more pertinent today than it was seventy years ago if for no other reason than that these pathetic archetypes seem to be even more among us today, no longer mere aberrations, as they were in West's day.

You have Homer Simpson (no, not that Homer Simpson) a weak, cowardly, deeply depressed man searching for a hint of meaning in his life; Abe Kusich, a nasty, smart-aleck of a dwarf,...more
Pamela
About a year ago, I purchased Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust as a Kindle twofer. I read Miss Lonelyhearts a few months back, and finally got around to reading the longer novel. Many people love The Day of the Locust, while an equally large group does not. I'm in the latter group.

When it comes to certain novels, I always wonder if people love it for the sake of saying they love it. There's a certain cachet that comes with tossing out references to slightly-obscure yet classic novels....more
Eric
Whimsical and witty it may be, The Day of the Locust is ultimately too insubstantial to really care about. There's a flatness to both the characters and the prose that makes them easy to forget, and the plot, a satiric wink at 30s melodrama, feels strained.
Veronica
Nov 14, 2011 Veronica rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Veronica by: Modern Library's 100 Best Novels
I felt as though I’d clicked on TCM and was watching a film with one of those actors whose name you can’t recall, yet you know you’ve seen him in…oh, what’s the name of that other movie? I zipped through The Day of the Locust in no time, feeling as though I’d read it before, yet knowing I had not.

It’s Hollywood in the ’30′s with a cast of characters as unique as those found there today; retired vaudevillians, dwarf bookies, cock fighting cowboys, wannabe actors and of course, the femme fatale. W...more
Lori
Nathanael West is an oft overlooked Depression Era writer who created the original Homer Simpson! His career was cut off prematurely due to a fatal car accident in 1942. Having just begun my exploration of West's writing, I cannot help but wonder what he might have contributed to the literary dialogue in the socially tumultuous post-war years. His writing is so clean and lean. His understanding of the banality of evil is so complete. Imagine what he might have done with the ghoulish material the...more
Stephanie
*LOTS OF SPOILERS*

I am conflicted about this novel - hence, three stars. I almost gave it four though. It is very well written.

Here we have a novel about Hollywood - NOT Los Angeles. I am a native Angelino and have lived here my entire life. It's an odd relationship we natives have with Hollywood...I'm talking about Hollywood the Concept, not Hollywood the Actual Place. The thing about Hollywood is, only people from elsewhere are interested in it. Indeed, it was people from elsewhere who created...more
Seth
There's something truly apocalyptic about Nathanael West's stories. That isn't to say that he is a prophet of doom. Instead, his prose honestly depicts the ennui of the human condition and all of the wrath and bitterness that stems from the layman's disappointment at being unremarkable--at living unremarkably. His prose is beautiful and richly descriptive, like a more poetic Hemingway (since I'm a fan of sloppy comparisons).

West also dismantles the traditional faux-Christ figure by exposing the...more
David
At the cabaret:
"Homer (Simpson!) and Tod applauded him.
'I hate fairies,' Faye said.
'All women do.'
Tod meant it as a joke, but Faye was angry.
'They're dirty,' she said.
He started to say something else, but Faye had turned to Homer again. She seemed unable to resist nagging him. This time she pinched his arm until he gave a little squeak.
'Do you know what a fairy is?' she demanded.
'Yes,' he said hesitatingly.
'All right, then,' she barked. 'Give out! What's a fairy?'
Homer twisted uneasily, as thoug...more
Bev
I know this is supposed to be #73 on a list of best English language novels of the 20th century and that TIME magazine included it in the top 100 novels written between 1923 and 2005, but I didn't like it. I found it an ugly book and I didn't care about any of the characters, all of whom are part of the seedy side of Los Angeles during the Depression. One of the key characters is Homer Simpson, long before Matt Groening was a twinkle in his mother's eye.

The hero of the piece is Tod Hackett, who...more
Ldparadise
If Sunset Boulevard had a bastard child with Tom Waits' Blue Valentine and it went to Hollywood failed and died alone in a seedy hotel room from falling asleep while smoking a cigarette...it would be this book.
Elizabeth
I think I went into this with false/overly-ambitious expectations. Alfred Kazin's introduction, comparing West to Didion and Fitzgerald did not help, nor did the fact that this novel was originally assigned to me over ten years ago for a course and eventually taken off the syllabus because we ran out of time and my (amazing) professor insisted that this short novel was packed with so much rich material we'd never get through it all. Cue my reading, which I enjoyed enough but didn't feel as fever...more
Jane
My new bookclub tackled this as their first read and boy did the feathers fly. This group of women did NOT like the book, nor did they ever care to read another male novelist from the 20th century. They were equally appauled at the female character, Faye, as they were at the author's male character's responses. As a group, they crucified West for the lead male's rape obsession and saw Faye as a stereotypic hollow-headed fem fatal.
Hmmmm, I thought to myself. "What about the symbolism, the charact...more
Ron Arden
Sometimes I feel guilty when I'm not enamored with a book that someone else considers a classic or an author that is hailed as a genius. This story is considered by some to be Nathanael West's greatest work, but to me it was a bit underwhelming.

The story focuses on a group of people who are not exactly living the great American dream in late 1930s Hollywood. There are actors, writers and other "entertainers" who would feel comfortable in a Preston Sturges movie.

Tod Hackett, an artist who works...more
Garth
"Except for the Romola Martin incident and perhaps one or two other widely spaced events, the forty years of [Homer's] life had been entirely without variety or excitement."

Unfortunately, this book is also entirely without those things. Maybe that's not entirely fair as the book does have some vivid scenes: a visit to a Hollywood studio during the filming of a Napoleonic battle scene, a depressing cock-fight, a brawl in which a little person strikes a violent below-the-belt blow. However, the au...more
Mmars
What a strange & interesting little book this is. Only in California! Only in Hollywood! I'm also going to add that it's an important piece of literature because it captures the desperate outcomes of people who flocked to Hollywood in hopes of becoming rich and famous during the Depression. All these deluded people without talent. I'm reminded of some American Idol auditions. Don't we all feel guilty laughing at them, but the monied producers care not if they make a buck. That is exactly wha...more
Chad Whittle
The Day of the Locust is one of those books that keeps popping up on "Best Book" lists and so it was always one that I was interested in reading. During a recent re-read of my favorite graphic novel Y: The Last Man, Yorick, the main character stated that it was the best book ever written, so that clinched it - I had to read it.

It is the story of a set builder in Hollywood set in the late 1930's. It can definitely be described as Hollywood Gothic. It has a set of eccentric, desperate characters t...more
Mateo
Here's a few things that I learned from The Day of the Locust: that back in 1938, they had credit cards; the word "fairy" was understood to mean "homosexual," but "gay" pretty much meant "happy"; there were drag clubs in LA in that era; that even white people sung openly about reefer. In its day, Day of the Locust undoubtably shocked readers with its depictions of dope, lesbianism, extra-marital sex, prostitution, Hollywood excess, and the brutality of cockfights and mob violence, but I suspect...more
Don Incognito
This satire of Hollywood hangers-on and wannnabes (not celebrities) could be depressing because it's so ugly; but since my physical and spiritual life are both thankfully distant from Hollywood and its noxious culture, I read it with detachment (clinical detachment, perhaps), and found the novel not particularly depressing, only unpleasant. Dead and desolate. The keynote scene for me, that which struck me emotionally more than any other and made an impression to me on behalf of the entire novel,...more
A
This is a great book. It's a wonderfully dark and surreal look at the fakeness of Hollywood and the destructiveness of people. It deals with sex and drinking and child actors and cock fights and just general crazies. The main characters are sad, pathetic people who have deluded themselves into following the 'American Dream', and you feel sorry for them. But at the same time, they disgust you. The novel slowly builds, at first showing them fairly normal, and then heaping on flaws and weirdness un...more
Laura
Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

Opening lines:
Around quitting time, Tod Hackett heard a great din on the road outside his office. The groan of leather mingled with the jangle of iron and over all beat the tattoo of a thousand hooves. He hurried to the window.
Cody
Horrible, Horrible book. the only reason i finished it was because i thought something would eventually happen and it is very short. it is about a man who is in lust with a prostitute, who won't sleep with him and his many attempts to; even at a funeral. the book is filled with 200 pages of non-sensical blabber until the very end when another character (a lonely middle-aged man who is actually in love with the prostitute) causes a riot, not on purpose and for no aparent reason. West never gives...more
Sophie
This book had been deemed as a classic however I really found it hard to like. I really wanted to enjoy the book but I couldn't wait until i finished it and was thankful that this book only had 183 pages. The story revolves around Tod Hackett, an artist, who moves to Hollywood and all the characters he meets, set in the Depression era. He is in love with his neighbour Faye Greener, who is a wanna be actress and sometime call girl, who has many men vying for her attention. The reason why this sto...more
Laura
I had heard this book referenced so many times, usually when people are talking crap about Hollywood, that I thought I would finally read it and see what all the fuss is about. Although I did find it amusing that many of the same caricatures are as alive today as they were back in the 30's (right down to people following raw food diets), I found the book to be a bit shallow. Maybe it's hard to write in depth about shallow people (or maybe that's the point), but I found myself really not caring h...more
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day of the locust 2 35 Jan 25, 2012 06:29AM  
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Born Nathanael von Wallenstein Weinstein to prosperous Jewish parents; from the first West set about creating his own legend, and anglicising his name was part of that process. At Brown University in New York, he befriended writer and humourist S. J. Perelman (who later married his sister), and started writing and drawing cartoons. As his cousin Nathan Wallenstein also attended Brown, West took to...more
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“Only those who still have hope can benefit from tears.” 20 likes
“Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives they read the newspapers and went to the movies. Both fed them on lynchings, murder, sex crimes, explosions, wrecks, love nests, fires, miracles, revolutions, war. This daily diet made sophisticates of them. The sun is a joke. Oranges can’t titillate their jaded palates. Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and saved for nothing.” 14 likes
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