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Miss Lonelyhearts and A Cool Million

3.77 of 5 stars 3.77  ·  rating details  ·  1,203 ratings  ·  101 reviews
Miss Lonelyhearts, published in 1933, is Nathanael West's second novel. It is an Expressionist black comedy set in New York City during the Great Depression.

"Money and fame meant nothing to them. They were not worldly men."

"Wildly funny, desperately sad, brutal and kind, furious and patient, there was no other like Nathanael West.”

–Dorothy Parker
199 pages
Published May 25th 2000 by Penguin Books LTD; New Ed edition (first published 1933)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 2,240)
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Sketchbook
Black coffee with a taste of almonds. Drink ye all of it.
Skeptical
Sometimes we are deprived of good works by the untimely death of a brilliant young author. Other times we heap underserved praise upon the works of authors because they die young. Alas, the latter is the case with Miss Lonelyhearts. Rather than being a brilliant exploration of the philosophical and moral quagmire and emotional devastation of living on the seamy underbelly of city life as so many reviewers have exhorted, Miss Lonelyhearts is a hodgepodge of uneven, unfinished thoughts by an autho ...more
James
It seems that the majority of reviews are from users who've only read the first novel(la?) contained herein. Either that or they've doused their brains with literary Drano in an attempt to banish the other nasty little thing from memory. And really, it's understandable. Compared to A Cool Million, Miss Lonelyhearts might as well be one of the rags-to-riches Alger stories its spiritual sequel skewers so mercilessly, the detachment through which the earlier work conveys its social and emotional cr ...more
Brendan
There seems to be a distinct slice of fancy-pants literature in which mopey people mope about, do mopey stuff, and generally bemoan the lack of motivation that leads them to mopery. I’m thinking here of The Magus and The End of the Affair. In this case, West’s novel focuses on the eponymous hero, an advice columnist beset by depression under the weight of the letters he receives daily. He slumps around, unable to do what he thinks right, and stuck in the rut of drinking, joyless debauchery, and ...more
Inna Shpitzberg
As always, the literary choices of Harold Bloom are the best for me.
Crystal Beran
There's something horrible about this book, in the way that Miss Lonelyhearts goes through the motions of humanity. He's got an almost robotic quality, as if his programming instructed him to try on a series of masks, logically discarding one when it proved not to fit.

Miss Lonelyhearts is the man who answers the Dear Abby letters for his newspaper. Each day he is greeted by a stack of papers upon which the essence of human suffering are written. He responds in every way possible through out the
...more
Bruce
Having written four books, Nathanael West died in 1940. His best known novel, Miss Lonelyhearts, was published in 1933. Miss Lonelyhearts is a bitter and somewhat callous New York City newspaperman who spends day after day reading letters from desperate readers and answering them in his advice column. Puritanical and Christ-obsessed, he is harassed by his editor, Shrike, who mocks him at every opportunity. The short novel is a parody, as calloused and bitter as Miss Lonelyhearts himself. Deeply ...more
Daniel
The Pole Riders Win Again

Third, maybe fourth, time that I've read this novelette. All within this lifetime, mind you, so there's no Shirley MacLaine-type Past Lives Pavilion New Age Spirituality Transcendental Meditation Exploration going on here.

And if there were, I'd probably be on my eighth reading of the novelette.

Anyway, I've read the thing several times because I simply love it. Not because I'm a dimwitted former member of parliament.

In fact, I'm still a member of parliament.


This is a gre
...more
Greg
The story is allegorical. As is common with the allegorical form, it uses religion.
The trouble with a lonelyhearts newspaper column is the sort of crossing the proscenium arch between art and life - a newspaper column and people's real life problems. There's a dual negative/positive that that involves. On one hand, the positive of allowing one to talk to a stranger about their problems, just getting it off their chest, or a cry for help, albeit to an anonymous stranger (Miss Lonelyhearts), in a
...more
Katie
What a bizarre book. Maybe it's that it was written so long ago, but I just found so many of the dialogue, scenes, and situations so strange that I didn't get people's responses to anything about 95% of the time.
Misty
This book was not at all what I expected, especially the identity of Miss Lonelyhearts, but I liked it a lot. The tone reminds me a bit of Invisible Man--sort of detached and ironic.
Rhonda
A stunning and stark journey into the pit of darkness, this is a book one can hardly put down even though the train wreck of a conclusion is observable from the beginning.
Jamie
I’m going to need some whiskey and gin now, please.

Well-written and deeply cynical and a little too much even for me, right now.
Jimmy
Nov 25, 2012 Jimmy added it
a perfect punch in the dick. flannery loved it. jesus probably does too.

it really hurt.
Deb (Readerbuzz) Nance
Miss Lonelyhearts is the Dear Abby of her day during America’s Great Depression. But Miss Lonelyhearts is a he, not a she, and that’s only the beginning of the ways Miss Lonelyhearts deceives her readers. Though he feels pity for his readers and their terrible lives, Miss Lonelyhearts has little to offer to help them.

Oddly, the most disturbed character in the book is Miss Lonelyhearts himself. He obsesses over the troubles of his readers but no one is able to help him. His editor doesn’t even t
...more
Edie
Nathanael West’s “Miss Lonelyhearts” is a story of dysfunction. The novella is divided into fragmented pieces, each composed of perverted, collapsing systems. West introduces commonplace patterns of order only to grotesquely destabilize each. He destroys nearly every social and personal structure of humanity, perverting relationships, bodies, even aspects as fundamental as gender distinction. West’s language, too, is a broken system. His disjointed narrative lacks a definite beginning or end, an ...more
Richard
Good book. I like my comedy like I like my coffee: black and bitter.

My only problem with this novel(la?) is that West mocks our self-absorbed society but then doesn't offer an alternative to the illusory pleasure of modern life. Miss Lonelyhearts was one of Flannery O'Connor's favorite books. I can see the similarity between O'Connor and West. They are both dark humorists. They both concede that most of what we chase after in life is vanity and foolishness. But at least O'Connor offers us a way
...more
Choco

Miss Lonelyhearts is a man who writes an advice column. His boss and the people working with him see the entire thing as a joke. It's not the same for Miss Lonelyhearts, though. He gets some really depressing mail from people asking for help. The whole thing affects his life, and he's unable to escape the dark and sad conditions of the people around him. He can never manage to come up with something good to say to his readers, something that can them feel better and more hopeful. The fact that h
...more
Lori
Miss Lonelyhearts was not a story I enjoyed. However, a story does not have to be enjoyed to qualify as a significant piece of writing. I am discovering Nathaniel West a bit late and am somewhat fascinated by his work. Writing in the midst of one of America's darker chapters...the Great Depression...West employs the spare and dark prose a reader might more readily expect from a post-modern, post-God, contemporary nihilist.

Crisis eras bring out both the best and worst qualities in people. West's
...more
Evan
It seems I've given too many five-star ratings lately, but what can I say? I keep picking great books. Nathanael West's high reputation rests on a less than prolific output, including this very short novella - easily readable in just a few hours, but not quite as fast a read as you might think due to the intricacies of West's analogies and language and expressionistic allusions, quite a few of which are way out there and deserve pondering. After reading this and "Day of the Locust" I have to agr ...more
Kirstie
Jan 23, 2012 Kirstie rated it 3 of 5 stars
Recommended to Kirstie by: Rory I think
I would say this novella is more like a 3 1/2 but Goodreads won't allow it. This is one of those works that tells about a place in time and a certain sense of loneliness that seems timeless that never seemed to get its due recognition.

Miss Lonelyhearts ia actually a man who must answer the advice letters that come into the paper...and these letters enlist is help in every topic that seems imaginable. Meanwhile, Miss Lonelyhearts himself is ensnared in his own problems, namely the adulterous situ
...more
Rifftrafft
all is good at the clover club

cliff and i have made amends

i am now willing and able (and excited) to give him my money in exchange for his company's reasonably priced cocktails

really dark book about this pagliacci slash dear abby advice columnist type (un)named (and male) "miss lonelyhearts." ML is slowly overwhelmed by the impossible sadness and flat-out evil his readers count among their problems. maybe my favorite kind of christ figure, because he *really* wants to be a christ figure, and is
...more
Justin McFarr
Published in 1933, this short work by the author of THE DAY OF THE LOCUST shares a strikingly similar tone of despair and desperation with its Hollywood-focused counterpart, yet has its own unique voice, as well. The protagonist, referred to only by the name of his newspaper column, Miss Lonelyhearts, is drawn by Nathanael West as a pathetic yet endearingly earnest man, who strives to uplift the world of others as an attempt to improve the fortune of his own life. Unfortunately, he fails at ever ...more
Dfordoom
Nathanael West was killed in a car crash in 1940, at the age of 37. He left behind him a very small body of work – one short novel and three novellas. He was virtually unknown during his lifetime but his reputation has grown steadily since his death. His best-known work is probably his novella Miss Lonelyhearts. Miss Lonelyhearts is a man who writes an advice column for a New York newspaper. The endless parade of human misery and meaningless suffering that he encounters no longer merely depresse ...more
Michael
I must say at the outset that I've read this novel (or novella) one and a half times. Several years ago I decided to take Harold Bloom (a well known literary critic) at his word and discover the merits of this work.

Well, I got close to half-way through, was aware that I was getting very depressed and decided that there was too much other stuff I wanted to read that didn't put me in a down mood. Plus, I was going through some really tough things in my personal life that I think accounted my mood.
...more
gaby
May 13, 2008 gaby rated it 5 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: everyone, particularly salinger worshippers
My coming to know Nathanael West was like rounding a corner and accidentally running smack into a stranger who thereafter instantly becomes your best friend. I knew almost nothing about him before picking up this greying little 100 page book for a dollar at Black Oak. When I'd finished it a couple of days later, I was in love!

Nathanael West was born Nathan Weinstein in 1903 in Manhattan. A wealthy but iconoclastic child, Nathan dropped out of high school and got into Tufts University by forging
...more
selena
I made a promise to myself that I woudl actively work toward reading all of the books listed on the 1001 books to read before you die list. Sometimes I’ve pouted through the books and then there are times where the list leads me to a new author and gem that I would have missed completely.

Miss Lonelyhearts is Nathanael West’s most famous book, through really, it is a novella. Miss Lonelyhearts is the nickname for the advice columnist for a magazine. (the reader never finds out Miss Lonelyhearts’
...more
James
Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts is one of the most brutal satires ever written, and, unlike many of the best satires, it is also a successful drama. West's tale of the titular newspaper advice columnist (actually a man, whose name is never given) seems to encompass the whole range of human discontent. The laughs come often, but they are joyless; the book is quite bitter indeed and the jokes cut like razors. The abundant suffering chronicled in the book is contrasted with the strange (and some ...more
Kate
Apr 04, 2010 Kate rated it 2 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: the dark and despairing
Recommended to Kate by: Gary Dexter
Better, I say unto you, better a live bird in the jungle of the body than two stuffed birds on the library table.

When to the suddenness of melody the echo parting falls the failing day.

Tod recognized the music. His mother often played a piano adaptation of it on Sundays at home. It very politely asked Christ to come, in clear and honest tones with just the proper amount of supplication. The God it invited was not the King of Kings, but a shy and gentle Christ, a maiden surrounded by maidens, and
...more
Chad Whittle
Miss Lonelyhearts was packaged with the copy of The Day of the Locust that I purchased, so I felt obliged to read it as well. And with a 65 page length, it was easily read in a couple of sittings.

It is the story of a man who answers the Miss Lonelyheart letters at a New York paper during the depression. Initially, he is self-absorbed and sees the job as a joke. But as he reads and answers more letters, he develops a need to "save" the desperate letter writers.

The theme of salvation and religio
...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
More about Nathanael West...
The Day of the Locust Miss Lonelyhearts/The Day of the Locust Miss Lonelyhearts A Cool Million and The Dream Life of Balso Snell: Two Novels A Cool Million

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