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The Day of the Locust

3.79  ·  Rating Details ·  16,230 Ratings  ·  555 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 despairing, all twisted by their by their own desires--from the ironically romantic artist narrator to ...more
Paperback, 167 pages
Published January 1st 1982 by Time-Life Books (first published 1939)
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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30)
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Glenn Russell
Sep 13, 2014 Glenn Russell rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition

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
...more
Jessica
Mar 30, 2009 Jessica rated it liked it
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
Dec 07, 2011 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
...more
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
...more
Brad
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
...more
Bettie☯
Nov 16, 2015 Bettie☯ rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: BBC Radio Listeners
Recommended to Bettie☯ by: Isca Silurum


http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/b06p56zj

Description: Tod is a young scene designer in 1930s Hollywood trying to earn an honest buck and still maintain his artistic integrity. He falls in love with Faye, an aspiring actress and gets sucked into the toxic periphery of Hollywood. A caustic satire on the flipside of the 1930s dream factory.
Kemper
Aug 29, 2009 Kemper rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Steven  Godin
Nov 30, 2015 Steven Godin rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classic, fiction, american
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
Tfitoby
Dec 31, 2011 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
...more
Laura Leaney
May 06, 2010 Laura Leaney rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I re-read this for a recent book club and found myself appreciating it much more than I did back in college. Since the book didn't change, I'd have to say that perhaps the wisdom of more years has deepened my understanding of the complexity and nuance regarding absurdity in the human character. I once thought the book was dry and overly cynical. No longer. In a city full of strangeness, the people inhabiting West's Hollywood novel seem sharp and current.

On the back cover of my ancient copy, the
...more
Darwin8u
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.
Pamela
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.
...more
Malcolm David Logan
Jan 01, 2008 Malcolm David Logan rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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,
...more
Vit Babenco
Dec 31, 2014 Vit Babenco rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
Ldparadise
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 cigarette...it would be this book.
Irene
Feb 25, 2017 Irene rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
I had a hard time deciding to finish the book after the first mention of Tod Hackett's thoughts about the courage to rape a teenager but I forget. You're not supposed to like the characters in this story.

Tod is the protagonist, the straight man in this black comedy. Tod is self-aware and slick but still a naive outsider, in many ways. Like the lost inhabitants in Los Angeles, he is not that different compared to his midwest foil, Homer Simpson.

The highlights of this novel are in the parade of
...more
Alex
Sep 10, 2015 Alex rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.
lookingforabura
Jun 01, 2015 lookingforabura rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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.

Eric
Jan 24, 2009 Eric rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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.
Stephanie
*LOTS OF SPOILERS*

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
...more
Garth
Sep 22, 2012 Garth rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
"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
...more
Lori
Mar 20, 2010 Lori rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
Jane
Aug 21, 2010 Jane rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
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
...more
David
Jun 27, 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
...more
Suvi
Empty and crumbling sets, weird architecture, starlets thirsting to be famous, religious fanatics, tired and sick artists, aggressive midgets, cockfight-organising Mexicans, illusioned individuals, restless crowds, fake horses at the bottom of pools... Everything that makes (or made?) Los Angeles so wonderfully bizarre. A breeding ground of fake people, artistic people, and downright crazy people. West's execution wasn't the best, making the story a bit of a jumble and leaving nothing you can gr ...more
Emily May
Dec 20, 2013 Emily May rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: classics, 2016
Depressing, crushing realization that the American dream isn't all it's cracked up to be, and that Hollywood glitz and glamour is just going to screw you up sooner or later.

This is the Golden Age of Hollywood, full of beautiful actresses, movies, hopes and passion. Tod Hackett gets caught up in this world when he finds himself in an LA studio, working as a set designer. As well as Tod, there's a whole bunch of unfortunate characters pulled into this spotlighted charade, most notably - Faye (a wa
...more
Erwin Maack
Oct 19, 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
...more
Laura
Free download available at eBooks@Adelaide.

Opening lines:
Around quitting time, Tod Hackett heard a great din on the road outside his office. The groan of leather mingled with the jangle of iron and over all beat the tattoo of a thousand hooves. He hurried to the window.
Williwaw
Mar 18, 2017 Williwaw rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
A graduate of Yale art school snags a job painting sets in Hollywood. He falls in love (or maybe pure lust) with a ditsy and beautiful young woman who dreams of becoming a "star," but hasn't the talent. The young woman moves in with an accountant named (of all things!) Homer Simpson. Simpson has moved from Iowa to California on the advice of a physician, for the sake of his health. He's also fixated on the starlet, but they live a chaste existence together -- a "business arrangement."

The story c
...more
Veronica
Nov 07, 2011 Veronica rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
...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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“Only those who still have hope can benefit from tears.” 38 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.” 28 likes
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