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The Day of the Locust

3.80  ·  Rating Details  ·  14,958 Ratings  ·  482 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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John Belushi Is Dead by Kathy CharlesThe Big Sleep by Raymond ChandlerThe Day of the Locust by Nathanael WestLess Than Zero by Bret Easton EllisTo Live and Drink in L.A. by Ben Peller
Los Angeles
3rd out of 201 books — 180 voters
1984 by George OrwellThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Clockwork Orange by Anthony BurgessLolita by Vladimir NabokovThe Iliad by Homer
David Bowie's Top 100 Must Read Books
25th out of 100 books — 232 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Glenn Russell
Oct 02, 2015 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing

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
Jul 28, 2009 Jessica rated it liked it  ·  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
Oct 07, 2012 Paquita Maria Sanchez rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: literature
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
Richard Derus
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
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
Jan 30, 2013 Tfitoby rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: lit
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
Aug 31, 2009 Kemper rated it really liked it
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
This is where the world ends
This is where the world ends
This is where the world ends
In a poisoned meringue of L.A.'s winter.

End of the World

This book has amazing characters, incredible scenes, and breaks my heart with every page. It set the scene for every David Lynch movie grotesque and the soundtrack for every Pixies song your head can bend itself around. Also, the best cock fight scene in all of literature.
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.
Malcolm David Logan
Jan 05, 2008 Malcolm David Logan rated it really liked it
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,
Dec 19, 2015 Steven rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A dark and foreboding look at 1930's Los Angeles where screen writer Tod Hackett falls for aspiring young actress Fay Greener, but this is a long way from being a love story and has an atmosphere filled with dread, sexual tension and desperate lives where everything felt more like a surreal nightmare than a Hollywood dream, and although far from being perfect West captures the moment very well where the glitz and glamour of the movie industry becomes an obsession for those with high hopes of hit ...more
Vit Babenco
Jan 02, 2015 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing
The Day of the Locust is a very good book about very bad taste…
“She posed, quivering and balanced, on the doorstep and looked down at the two men in the patio. She was smiling, a subtle half-smile uncontaminated by thought. She looked just born, everything moist and fresh, volatile and perfumed.”
And bad taste aggravated with mass stupidity becomes monstrous…
“Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they’ve been tricked and burn with resentment. Every day of their lives the
Aug 11, 2015 Abeer rated it really liked it
Shelves: classic
"Only those who still have hope can benefit from tears. When they finish, they feel better. But to those without hope, whose anguish is basic and permanent, no good comes from crying. Nothing changes for them. They usually know this, but still can’t help crying."

West has incredible writing that perfectly describes hopelessness and depression. It's sad but real. The short chapters and sentence structures made it easier to read than I thought.

Apr 20, 2016 Nick rated it really liked it
Shelves: spring-2016
Halfway between Dostoyevsky and Vonnegut. This tale of sordid Hollywood wannabes on the eve of World War II is an exhibit of the "writer of despair" exchanging the open outrage at man's inhumanity of the 19th century for the self-preservative detachment of the late 20th. It has a Gatsby-ish plot, but the feeling here is of things just happening, without real volition--appropriate given the behavior of crowds, which play a major part in "Locust" and in the world West was writing in, one increasin ...more
Jan 24, 2009 Eric rated it it was ok
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.
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 would be this book.
Sep 08, 2010 Jane rated it it was ok
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
May 08, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it
Shelves: retro, classics
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
Sep 16, 2013 Stephanie rated it liked it

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
Sep 15, 2015 Alex rated it it was amazing
This almost reminded me of Shirley Jackson - not in its tone or theme, but in its oddness. Like, here's this West guy just off doing his weird thing and I don't even know whether it's funny or tragic.

It might be because I just finished Sun Also Rises, but the whole book seemed sortof like a parody of that. Parody might not be the right word. A small-scale version? A diorama? With cockfighting instead of bullfighting. Faye Greener is like a smaller, more tawdry Brett.
Jul 01, 2012 David rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: big-white-square
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
Erwin Maack
Oct 24, 2015 Erwin Maack rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Uma narrativa que pode ser lida ouvindo as canções de Cole Porter seguidas pelas de Buddy Guy. Tanto o drama de um quanto a melancolia do outro serão fundo musical adequado para se captar o clima da história.
Tempos de apocalipse, da solidão, das cidades prestes a serem consumidas pela violência, tempos em que as pessoas não se importam mais como nada, a não ser consigo próprias. Os personagens são caricatos e exagerados em tudo aquilo que faz o próximo sofrer.Cínicos, brutais, egoístas. Onde a b
Jan 26, 2016 Ian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction, hollywood
This is a dark-side-0f-Hollywood novel, originally published in 1939 and written by screenwriter. It follows a couple of characters on the fringes of the pictures. The characters are narcissistic, deluded, exploited and/or nasty but for all the lack of sympathetic figures the book remains surprisingly witty and entertaining.

I think this book may well lay down the template for all the Dark Hollywood films etc. that followed it, "Sunset Boulevard" in particular. I gather it was a direct influence
Mar 02, 2016 Nicole rated it liked it
Not as successful as Miss Lonelyhearts, but there is the same deeply cynical eye, which I miss in our contemporary rush to affirm everyone and everything.

Perhaps the most interesting and formally successful parts are the interactions between Faye and her father: performance is so written in to their relationship that even their fights are scripted. It's a truly bizarre relationship, and yet a natural extension of Faye's (and let's face it, she's not alone) worldview: I want to be an actress, I
Guy Portman
Nov 05, 2015 Guy Portman rated it really liked it
Shelves: fiction
Talented artist Tod Hackett has relocated to Los Angeles where he is working as a movie set designer. Tod develops an infatuation for Faye – a beautiful, blonde and brazen aspiring actress, and sometime call girl. When her father, a vaudevillian reduced to selling silver polish door-to-door, dies of a heart-attack, Faye goes to live with Homer Simpson, a kind-hearted, clumsy, middle-aged man, who dotes on her. There is also a belligerent and bad-tempered actor dwarf, a handsome and sullen down-o ...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
Sep 23, 2012 Garth rated it did not like it
"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
Nov 14, 2011 Veronica rated it really liked it
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
Jan 17, 2014 Bev rated it it was ok
Shelves: novel, book-club, classic
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
Oct 23, 2014 Seth rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: favorites
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
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day of the locust 2 39 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
More about Nathanael West...

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“Only those who still have hope can benefit from tears.” 30 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.” 21 likes
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