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Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust

3.93  ·  Rating Details ·  7,589 Ratings  ·  447 Reviews
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. Set in New York during the Depression and probably West's most powerful work, Miss Lonelyhearts concerns a nameless man assigned to produce a newspaper ad ...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by New Directions (first published 1939)
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Nineteen Eighty-Four by George OrwellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyThe Stranger by Albert CamusOne Hundred Years of Solitude by Gabriel Garcí­a MárquezThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald
The ACTUAL 100 Best Novels of the 20th Century
55th out of 151 books — 146 voters
The Catcher in the Rye by J.D. SalingerThe Great Gatsby by F. Scott FitzgeraldA Tree Grows in Brooklyn by Betty  SmithBreakfast at Tiffany's by Truman CapoteExtremely Loud and Incredibly Close by Jonathan Safran Foer
Tales of New York City
432nd out of 1,066 books — 944 voters

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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Mar 29, 2013 Steve rated it really liked it
To be honest, I was expecting something lighter. Here was the hook: Miss Lonelyhearts, an advice columnist in the early 30’s, is really a man. Sounds like a role for Jimmy Stewart at his gosh-darned chirpiest, doesn’t it? But the first few pages put a different image in mind – it was Pottersville without benefit of George Bailey. The letters in to Miss Lonelyhearts were just so bleak. Of course, it was a time when deprivations were de rigueur. Those lacking money, health, or wedded bliss had ver ...more
Mar 10, 2008 Tosh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Do you know what's wrong with this New Direction edition of West's most famous two little novels? Nothing. It's a perfect book. And it's a work that never gets old. The ultimate Hollywood nove (Day of the...)l that is almost spiritual. West got it right away and very few could match his greatness or snickering. A snicker that becomes passionate.

Miss Lonelyhearts is awesome beyond one's favorite mustard. It's a nasty little book that still stings. Hail West!
Mar 25, 2016 Edward rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
--The Day of the Locust
--Miss Lonelyhearts
Unsettling, harsh, and wildly inappropriate mixed with a blandness that could put a reader to sleep in seconds. This book has weighed on my mind in a way others haven’t in a while. My finger hovered above the two and four stars button far too long due to my struggle with content versus writing style.

CONTENT: I’m just floored by the amount of crude and offensive material this author covered in such a nonchalant way. Abrupt topic introductions that led me to either reread to make sure what I perc
Sep 19, 2016 Fabian rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Miss Lonelyhearts, a novella that made the 1001 Books You Must Read list, is a type of companion piece to Salinger's maudlin, crude, symbolic works about humanity. It is about an advice columnist who thinks he is a demi god, who ignores the troubles of everyone around him to the point of satire, who makes fun of the people he should save. Think: a lazy, lost, heartless Frasier Crane. His co workers are assholes as well. The plot takes an unexpected turn at the climax... the antihero's fate is se ...more
Aug 04, 2007 Lucas rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Dear Miss Lonelyhearts -

I am in such pain I dont know what to do sometimes I think I will kill myself my kidneys hurt so much. My husband thinks no woman can be a good catholic and not have children irregardless of the pain. I was married honorable for our church but I never knew what married life meant as I never was told about man and wife. My grandmother never told me and she was the only mother I had but made a big mistake by not telling me as it dont pay to be inocent and is only a big dis
Sep 28, 2009 Jimmy rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
If one moral prevails throughout the two novels that Nathanael West has become famous for, it would probably be that, even in the dreariest of times, people can find salvation or refuge from suffering through art. At least this is what Miss Lonelyheart's boss, Mr. Shrike informs him of as a substitute for religion. In Shrike's own words he asks "Why don't you give them something new and hopeful? Tell them about art. Here, I'll dictate: Art Is a Way Out". The only problem with this suggestion is ...more
I didn't "really like" reading this book.

It is so very world-weary, its beauty melancholy and even mundane. Miss Lonelyhearts' eponymous character tries to beat the despair of reading people's problems for a living and...sort of, almost, succeeds. In The Day of the Locust, men and women flock to Hollywood seeking The Prize (be it a beautiful woman, fame, or simply an improved quality of life eating tropical fruits under palm trees); complications arise. It's mostly a downer.

But it's not comple
Apr 20, 2009 Josh rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
West is a prophet of the 20th century American wasteland, with one crucial difference: whereas Isaiah's wheel within a wheel is evidence of god's presence and mystery, West's trembling metaphors sing only Absence, Absence. False signs in other words, like whoopee cushions that someone (God, we hope, or think we hope) has left under the various sofa-cushions of human existence. But what is the difference between a sign and a false sign? I wonder that while reading the various movie-related descri ...more
Mar 09, 2009 Jennifer rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
I re-read these two short novels in a fit of sentimentality.

When I was a sophomore at USC, I took an American Literature class, ENGL 263. Taught by a man named Gustafson, this was my only venture into "properly" studying books written on this continent. During my undergraduate years, I really concentrated in stuffy, dead English writers. Every day, we'd dutifully appear for class, and he would show up a few minutes late, looking like he had just spent all night running around in a tizzy. (He ha
Jeanette  "Astute Crabbist"
So far I've only read Miss Lonelyhearts.
What an odd little story. Sex and booze and a Christ fixation and a melancholy madness brought on by immersion in the woes of complete strangers. I'm not sure what the point is, except to say that if you set out to fool or poke fun at others, you may find that the joke's on you.

I've satisfied my curiosity, anyway. I don't know that Nathanael West is the author for me. I'll have to try one more just to be sure.
I rebelled and struggled against reading these two stories, and had to force myself to press on nearly all the way through. In the end I found some redemption/value, but very little of the experience was anything I'd call enjoyable.

These stories are populated, by bitter, disenfranchised men who fantasize about rape as an appropriate corrective to "uppity" women. They are certainly not the source of their own ugliness -- all are struggling in a Depression-era world -- but still, the first scene
Jun 10, 2013 Bruce rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Like all black humor, these works are informed by a serious and intensely troubled view of man's existence -- specifically our contemporary existence where advertising tries to sell something -- a shaving lotion, a film, vitamins -- by molding our ideas of what we should be, physically, emotionally and spiritually. But Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust also contain considerable realism amidst their raucous and hilarious satire, and the two don't sit well beside each other. To give one ...more
Apr 04, 2011 gaby rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: los-angeles
"Violence in America is idiomatic." Nathanael West (Nathan Weinstein)

Reading West is to be struck, as in the face, again and again by his visceral sexual violence. It's frustrating but not surprising that the main literary legacy of West is a more generic brutality -- without acknowledgment that much of that violence is sexual in nature and theme. This shines brightest in Day of the Locust, where the very West-ian Homer Simpson (could it be a coincidence????) struggles hourly as though sex was a
Apr 24, 2008 Saxon rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: you.
Well, I have to say that I am sorely disappointed that I have to part with these two novellas. I feel like I am going through a bad breakup. Fitting? Perhaps. I have a professor/novelist friend from Denmark who considers books like lovers. If you are reading a book the first question he will ask you is, "So...was it a good lover? did it make you breakfast in the morning and rub your back or did it leave a note and take your money out of your wallet?" West was good. real good. taught me a few thi ...more
Sarah Etter
Jun 09, 2011 Sarah Etter rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
i've always loved a black comedy. and this one always has the ability to make me want to burst out into cackles and cry for three days at the same time.

whenever i meet someone who hasn't read this yet, i'm shocked. it seems like it should be required reading for life.

some of this is hard to take - the plight of miss lonelyhearts and his conflicts with the human condition, misery and religion would be unbearable to read if he had a real name.

miss lonelyhearts isn't a likable man. nothing pretty
I really enjoyed "The Day of the Locusts." Any book that features a drunk dwarf in the first ten pages is ok by me. His clean, realistic style, crossing into deep psychological insight, makes me wonder what else Mr. West would have written had he not bit the bullet so early.

"Miss Lonelyhearts" didn't do as much for me, I must admit. Maybe I should read it again. Anyway, add Mr. West to the list of "why isn't this guy more popular?" authors. Mr. West, meet Mr. Sherwood Anderson.

Jul 24, 2012 Juan rated it it was amazing
Miss Lonelyhearts is Dostoevskiana at its best. Also reminiscent of The Stranger and Hunger, both heirs to Dostoevsky's aimless, misanthropic but morally conflicted by misery, properly modern men of which the underground man, from Notes from Underground, is the true original. Great powerful little book.

Day of the Locust is a classic California novel full of wonderful little surprises, not the least of which is a supremely repressed, awkward character named Homer Simpson. Others include: cock fig
Jul 22, 2013 Will rated it did not like it
It's possible to write compelling fiction revolving around despicable characters in hopeless situations. Authors who do so successfully allegorize the morally bankrupt, unlikable world in the lives of their characters, with a healthy dose of humor and cynicism. Nabokov, most famously, has done it, Franzen has done it successfully, Conrad has, Faber has, Wells Tower has, and Shteyngart has made a career of making light of the genre. But there's a thin line between writing sly commentary on our ho ...more
According to the back cover: "Nathanael West died almost unknown in 1940" - fairly young in a car crash. "Miss Lonelyhearts" is about a newspaper columnist who gets emotionally sucked into the dilemmas of the people who write in to him. A novel of conscience, set in an often conscienceless profession. "The Day of the Locust" is a critique of Hollywood - later made into a Hollywood movie. I'm 'reviewing' his 4 novels here out of my usual alphabetical order that I'm working thru my lit section in ...more
Sep 17, 2016 Bbrown rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
“[O]n most days he received more than thirty letters, all of them alike, stamped from the dough of suffering with a heart-shaped cookie knife.”

This sentence appears on the very first page of Miss Lonelyhearts, and I don’t know about you, but for me it’s the worst line I’ve read in a published book in a long time. After reading it, I sat contemplating it for more time than the line probably deserves: was it intentionally terrible, to show that the narrator, working as an advice columnist, is a ta
John Pistelli
Nathanael West's 1933 novella, Miss Lonelyhearts, has passionate defenders. Harold Bloom declares it his favorite modern novel; in his chapter on it in How to Read and Why, he notes that Flannery O'Connor's own two favorite modern novels, which she saw as akin to each other, were As I Lay Dying and Miss Lonelyhearts. And there is a blurb inside my New Directions edition from Stanley Edgar Hyman calling it "one of the three best American novels of the first half of our century (with The Sun Also ...more
Alicia  Gordon
I read this for my "Literature in the Age of Film" course. I found that the primary commonality between the two works was the role of violence, which was kind of unexpected. It makes sense though.

Miss Lonelyhearts: 4/5 stars. "Men have always fought their misery with dreams." But utimately, the "American Dream" comes with a great cost. It calls for the surrender of our humility and purest dreams. This story takes us to New York, where we follow an advice-columnist who finds himself struggling to
Ryan Williams
Jul 21, 2015 Ryan Williams rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
West sometimes gets lumped along with his contemporary John Steinbeck - two writers of the Great Depression. But West had the more original view of America, and expressed it with an acidic clarity. He saw, as few others could, that hysteria was the price of the American dream. When the crowd in The Day of the Locust turns violent, it's cathartic for West's entire oeuvre.

An original voice that died too young.
Feb 12, 2015 Isaac rated it it was amazing
Day of the Locust:
A savage little thing, pretty and meandering and technical and heartless. A pitiless condemnation of Hollywood and LA and America in general just when the change was coming over the place, when the mold for our current entertainment industrial complex was being forged, when an awful treacherous vampiric city started colonizing its own American refugee children with vacuous ambition and dead-eyes stares. The hopeful and the hopeless and the witnesses all equally damned. Wow. Th
Time for a little classic. I just don't get it, usually these classics are the ones that I don't finish, or muddle through just because they're short. Does depressing and sad always equal classic?

This is a set of 2 short stories written in 1933, so during the depression and also prohibition. The first is how a "Miss Lonelyhearts" is driven crazy from not being able to help those who ask. They have Real Problems, not like the bridezilla angst letters of today. When he (yes, it's a he) offers up
Sep 09, 2015 Kevin rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
Locust: 1 star. Lonelyhearts: 2 stars.

Locust: One of the rape-iest books I've ever read, as it features an assortment of male character preoccupied with a sex worker named Faye, who is as alluring to them as she is unattainable. The main male character, Tod, considers rape a viable option at multiple points in the book, begins to plan it, and actually seems to act on it, though he's unsuccessful. His lust is convincing, but not compelling. A leading louse is fine enough if done well. Here it is
Dec 22, 2011 Sue rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
These are a couple of dark books. The first story, Miss Lonelyhearts, was enjoyable because I love advice columnists. Plus, you have to agree that columnists like that read many many letters from regular people with regular problems. Thing is, their regular problems are so much worse than I think about. The problems are colorful and help me to realize that life in the 1930's was nowhere near bliss, what with the depression, but it certainly isn't the good old days. The Greatest Generation? WHAT? ...more
I moved this book from "read" as I am currently rereading "Miss Lonelyhearts" for one of my grad classes (narrative efficiency); I did not ever really "get" this little piece of fiction previously, but time has made me a better reader for it (the five stars were for "Day of the Locust"). More on this...

Continued: When I was younger I read almost entirely for story and for character, as I think most readers do (which is not a judgment, merely an observation). I did not find interesting, and thus
Feb 04, 2008 Mark rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Bicoastal Depression-era kiss-off: Lonelyhearts is about New York, journalism, the paralyzing cynicism of the overeducated; Locust is about L.A., entertainment, the wasteful mobilization of the naive. West writes in short chapters, with plain diction and little extraneous tissue in his prose, and a steady stream of strange and abrupt images or oberservations. The person I've read who writes most like him is Richard Brautigan -- in both cases you picture a lonely man, hunched over a keyboard. Tho ...more
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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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“He smoked a cigarette, standing in the dark and listening to her undress. She made sea sounds; something flapped like a sail; there was the creak of ropes; then he heard the wave-against-a-wharf smack of rubber on flesh. Her call for him to hurry was a sea-moan, and when he lay beside her, she heaved, tidal, moon-driven.” 30 likes
“But whether he was happy or not was hard to say. Probably he was neither, just as a plant is neither.” 15 likes
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