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Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust
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Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust

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3.94 of 5 stars 3.94  ·  rating details  ·  6,149 ratings  ·  372 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 adv...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by New Directions (first published 1939)
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Steve
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
Tosh
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!
Lucas
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...more
Jimmy
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
Josh
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
rachel
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...more
gaby
"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...more
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.
Jennifer
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...more
Sarah Etter
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...more
RandomAnthony
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.

Bruce
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
tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE
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
Juan
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...more
Sue
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
Fabian
Miss Lonelyhearts, a novella that made the 1001 Books You Must Read list, is a companion piece to Salinger's maudlin, crude, symbolic works. 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 sealed; he gets what he d...more
Mark
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
Adam
Easily two of the bleakest classic American novels I have ever read, nice & tidy in one short book.

"Miss Lonelyhearts" is the tale of a man who takes the job of advice columnist for a NY newspaper-- originally on a lark, but as he sees that his readers' problems are real and horrifying, he tries to find different ways to cope. Drink & sex abound. So do comparisons to Jesus. The book reads, at times, like a parable & a poem. Touching and horrifying.

"The Day of the Locust" paints a mor...more
Peggy
Aug 15, 2007 Peggy rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: people who think that misery, while miserable, is also kinda funny
This two novella volume starts with Miss Lonelyhearts, and that's what I started with as well. Not really knowing anything about the novella going in, I was misled by the goofy title into thinking that I was in for a slightly wacky and fun time. This was not even remotely the case. Let me just say now that Miss Lonelyhearts is not for anyone who is even vaguely suicidal or depressed. There's a lot of seediness and squalor and West describes these situations unflinchingly. I often forget how much...more
Saxon
Apr 24, 2008 Saxon rated it 5 of 5 stars  ·  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
Amy
Of these two novellas, Miss Lonelyhearts was by far my favorite. "Miss Lonelyhearts" is actually a male employee of a New York newspaper who write the advice column much in the vein of Ann Landers. He initially treats his job as a huge joke, but day after day of letters dealing with horribly depressing issues, he kinda cracks and becomes extremely disillusioned with humanity. The bulk of the story is Miss Lonelyhearts trying to free himself from depression through art, alcohol, sex, and finally...more
Moses Kilolo
Contrary to my expectations before the reading of this set of stories, I liked Miss. Lonely hearts better than I did The Days of the Locust. It sort of happens, especially when I set my expectations too high. I was expecting something out of this world in my reading of Day,but I guess with the kind of books I have been reading lately, one has to be really special to tickle my fancy. Which, to be honest, Day was, though not to a hundred percent.West's writing has that element of genius all the sa...more
Jeremiah Tillman
"Guitars, bright shawls, exotic foods, outlandish costumes—all these things were part of the business of dreams."
Conor
The Day of the Locust
This book has some killer lines that come out of nowhere and it reminds me of F. Scott Fitzgerald's work, just more down to earth and with a better sense of humor. I found myself enthralled by this West's use of language and how it manages not to feel dated after eighty years. Hollywood in the 1920s is a particularly seductive setting and the characters have a tendency to surprise you. Putting all of these components together, this novel was an extremely satisfying mindfuck.
Jess
Insane! Not at all what I was expecting for a 1930s novel. Violent, sexual, often violently sexual. The story of Tod Hackett's move to Hollywood and his observation of the place as this fake wonderland where people masquerade as anything but themselves. He meets Homer Simpson, a sad Midwestener who relocates to LA to help him recover from pneumonia. The dwarf Abe Kusich convinces him to rent an apartment at the San Bernardino arms, where he sees Faye Greener and instantly lusts after her. She's...more
Stephanie
4 for The Day of the Locust, I didn't like Miss Lonelyhearts quite as much, though I'm glad I read it.

I loved the writing in Day of the Locust and couldn't look up when reading it, but I'm not sure I really liked the book, it (and Miss Lonelyhearts) were just so dark and violent and cruel. I'm a ridiculous wimp when it comes to animal-related violence, though, so I'll blame one particular scene for some of this reaction.
Stephanie
I get it. West was writing during the Great Depression. The country was depressed, West was depressed, so it's all black bleak misery. And not just any black bleak misery but a particularly masculine variety, in which we express our angst by beating up women routinely. I get the angst of that era, but do I want to hang out with that kind of angst for more than 50 pages? I do not. I finished Miss Lonelyhearts but opted to spare myself the ordeal of second novella, The Day of the Locust.

I read thi...more
Eric Smith
When I was in high school, several of my arty friends read this book, loved it, and wouldn't shut up about it. I wasn't that interested in it, but then when the movie came out, The Day of the Locust, in 1975, I went with them, saw it, and wanted to more or less kill myself afterwards. It must be one of the most depressing movies of all time. Add to this, my good buddy Charles Stotts - who loved the book more than anyone - died in a car crash a year later. That settled me into my disinterest in a...more
Mira
Two pages in and this is already my kind of book. I can't believe it was on the $6 shelf! When you look at a book and know it somehow unconsciously, that is a sign it has filtered in there for a good reason.
Lisa
Well-written stories that I felt I should like, but ultimately didn't enjoy that much.
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65685
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 read it for the same reason an animal tears at a wounded foot: to hurt the pain.” 30 likes
“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.” 22 likes
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