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Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney

3.31  ·  Rating Details  ·  80 Ratings  ·  21 Reviews
Nathanael West was a comic artist whose insight into the brutalities and absurdities of modern life proved prophetic. He is famous for two masterpieces, Miss Lonelyhearts and the most penetrating novel ever written about Hollywood, The Day of the Locust. Eileen McKenney, accidental muse and literary heroine, fled Cleveland in search of romance and adventure, inspiring her ...more
Paperback, 432 pages
Published March 10th 2011 by Mariner Books (first published January 1st 2010)
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(showing 1-30 of 228)
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Richard Reviles Censorship Always in All Ways
Reviewing this book, I am more grateful than ever to the innovator who thought up the decimal-star system. No way could I rate this four stars, and three-and-a-half is a little mingy, so I really give it 3.8 stars.

The Publisher Says: NATHANAEL WEST—novelist, screenwriter, playwright, devoted outdoorsman—was one of the most gifted and original writers of his generation, a comic artist whose insight into the brutalities of modern life proved prophetic. He is famous for two masterpieces, Miss Lonel
Jun 01, 2010 Mel rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I liked the fact that it's a double biography of two people whose lives cross for a very short period. However, with all the prime material and having read Meade's bio of Dorothy Parker, this book was surprisingly dull. Not to mention, way too many references to West's gonorrhea problems and lots of hints that he may be gay (posited by the Meade) that go completely unanswered.
James Murphy
Lonleyhearts is a dual biography with an uneven gait. Nathanael West is recognized today as one of the most important novelists of the 1930s. One wonders why Meade would combine a biography of the two, even though they met, married, and in that way came to share Meade's narrative. McKenney was relatively unknown in her time and since, her claim to muted fame only as the subject of her sister's hit novel and play, My Sister Eileen. Not surprisingly McKenney's sections of the biography hold little ...more
May 09, 2010 Nancy rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
An interesting double biography of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney (The Eileen of My Sister Eileen ). They married in April of 1940 and were killed in a car wreck in December of the same year. By necessity the book is alternating biographies until the last few chapters. Ms. Meade generally does a good job of creating a sense of the times while also covering details of the lives of these two people. Reading about West's early years, you'd never expect him to become a respected writer. Maybe th ...more
Very disjointed, unsatisfying biography of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney. The conceit of the book is interesting and the characters interesting enough for an exploration, but the story seems to weave into too many other characters and not focus enough on West or McKenney. As someone only familiar with West's work, it would have been helpful to have more explanation/ history of West and Ruth's work- other than short descriptions of the events as they happen. Overall, I wanted to like this mo ...more
Feb 08, 2011 Julai rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Cocktails are drunk, whores are screwed, twisteroos and madcap action culminate in a monster smash-up. It's the 20s, folks. (Through the early 40s, but who's counting?) And it's the story of famous-for-being-famous Eileen McKenney (My Sister Eileen--read the stage play for some pre-SATC bright-eyed, loose-moral-ed coming-to-the-city fanfare.) and her romance/marriage with that master of the poignantly weird, Nathanael West.

All in all, not much happens--but it's worth it to read just for the inc
Mar 10, 2010 Nette rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
An unusual and very entertaining double biography. Unusual because the two subjects don't meet until almost the very end (and then promptly die together); entertaining because of the wonderful depictions of New York and the Midwest and Paris and Hollywood in the 20s and 30s and all the odd characters who wander in and out. I'd love to see someone (Tim Burton? the Coen Bros?) make a movie based on this book
Aaron Mcquiston
A weak three-star biography about Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney. With a menagerie of supporting characters in fiction and Hollywood, it seems as if this entire biography is not very informative on personal matters as much as professional ones. Sure I like to read about old Hollywood and the struggles of writers not making a penny, but the painting of West and McKenney are very abstract. There are references to West and his STDs and his piss-poor driving, but the struggles that are hinted at ...more
As the word "screwball" in the subtitle might suggest, this is an irreverent look, focusing more on personal matters than artistic analysis, at West and his wife Eileen McKinney, who inspired her sister Ruth's best-selling book MY SISTER EILEEN and who died in the car crash that also took West's life. (He was driving.) Some of Meade's speculations are intriguing, as when she suggests that West's family must have helped him cheat his way to his college degree, and she makes some interesting point ...more
Bookmarks Magazine
Overall, critics were a bit perplexed by Meade's decision to write about West and McKenney; several didn't think the couple was interesting enough to appeal to modern readers. McKenney, in particular, was merely famous for being made famous (though we--and today's reality TV stars--are familiar with this concept). Others detected in the author's writing a distinct lack of empathy for her subjects and an irritating, overly familiar tone. On the positive side, Meade skillfully evokes the era, so f ...more
May 24, 2010 Carol marked it as to-read
NYTimes, The screwball world of Nathanial West and Eilleen mcKenney 1930's Hollywood
Sep 17, 2010 Colleen rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A biography on Nathanael West and his wife Eileen McKenney may on the surface seem to be an odd decision. After all, West and McKenney met in 1939 and were married a few months later and died in a car accident in December 1940. But Marion Meade does a good job of combining both biographies into one compelling read in Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKeneny.

I didn’t know much about West before I began reading this book and I knew nothing about Eileen. I was drawn t
Rebecca Makkai
Sep 24, 2013 Rebecca Makkai rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I adore Marion Meade -- she's perfected the art of the wildly gossipy literary biography -- and when (ten pages in) I saw that this book had no five-star ratings on Goodreads, I was determined to write the first one and give you all what for.

So I finished it, and... damned if it isn't a four-star book. And it's not Meade's fault, really. These people's lives just aren't all that fascinating. (And she doesn't seem to have a lot of first-hand accounts or letters to work with, especially regarding
Jan 05, 2014 Gobasso rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: biography
I enjoyed reading Nathanael West's books and enjoyed reading about his life, his wife Eileen and the era they lived. Their lives are typical of writers during the time. Born in the mid-west or NYC, moving to and writing for Hollywood, joining or dealing with the Communist Party. If you're interested in that era this is an interesting read although Nat and Eileen are small players compared to F.S. Fitzgerald or Faulkner and reading their biographies may be a better introduction.
Lynne Culp
Jul 20, 2010 Lynne Culp rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I liked this book in large part because I was raised on the writing of Ruth McKinney, sister of Eileen, so I had long been curious about West and Eileen. I found the story of Nathaniel's early life both touching and seriously intriguing. He was such an incompetent at so many things. Saying he was a late starter is such serious understatement. In essence, he and Eileen seemed like they were destined for the ash heap, yet she found him, and he found art. And because of one of his serious incompete ...more
Emma  Kaufmann
Sep 15, 2010 Emma Kaufmann rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A really great book focussing mainly on author Nathanael West in 1930s New York and LA - who remains a lovable character even though he was a duplicitous so and so who faked his exam results to get into college and plagiarised numerous sources in his books. He also hardly made any money from his novels throughout his lifetime (although he made quite a bit writing movie scripts). A wonderful uplifting tale of how authors need to believe in themselves even if they don't earn a brass farthing from ...more
Margaret Haerens
Aug 23, 2012 Margaret Haerens rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I always wanted to know where Nathanael West's twisted fiction came from--and now I have a better understanding of how his upbringing and family informed his worldview. And learning about the McKenney girls was a true pleasure. A very enjoyable read.
The only thing this book was successful in doing is make Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney sound like a coupla jerks. Irk.
Apr 15, 2012 Casey72 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Think this is a hugely under-rated book, and Nathaniel West's book still hold up wonderfully,
and he was an amazing character.
John Uzzi
Oct 14, 2010 John Uzzi rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I enjoyed this quite a lot. Interesting characters, interesting times, a tragically short life.
Steve Shilstone
Plenty of valuable and entertaining information, somewhat clumsily formatted.
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Marion Meade is an American biographer and novelist, whose subjects stretch from 12th century French royalty to 20th century stand-up comedians. She is best known for her portraits of literary figures and iconic filmmakers.

Her new book, Lonelyhearts: The Screwball World of Nathanael West and Eileen McKenney, is a joint biography of a husband and wife whose lives provide a vivid picture of the art
More about Marion Meade...

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