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The Complete Works of Nathanael West

3.94  ·  Rating details ·  137 Ratings  ·  18 Reviews
The Day of the Locust, Miss Lonelyhearts, The Dream Life of Balso Snell, A Cool Million
Hardcover, 421 pages
Published 1966 by Farrar, Straus and Giroux
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Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
I had already read Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust before I came across this collection. I was very impressed with Nathaneal West's style that I had to dig into the rest of his novels. Alas, there are only four of them in total.

A Cool Million is about the myth surrounding the American dream and follows the story of our hero, Lem Pitkin, as he leaves town to make it in the big city of New York. The misfortunes that follow his endeavour are harrowing to say the least. In this novel it
Jan 20, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
American literature is a world of competing cults of personality. Samuel Clemens, the biographer of Joan of Arc, the bitter heathen apologist of Satan, is mainly remembered as Tom and Huck’s wily grandfather. The alleged romance of Scott Fitzgerald and Hemingway is based on the atmosphere of Paris cafes, and far exceeds their spare masterworks. Thanks to his reclusivity (and a couple Simpsons cameos) Thomas Pynchon has developed his own totemic following outsized compared to his mostly unreadabl ...more
Rob Charpentier
May 21, 2014 rated it liked it
Shelves: fiction
I’m kinda on the fence as to how to rate Nathanael West. He was definitely something of an interesting character, to say the least. Although I’m not so sure he was really all that likeable as a person but this is really beside the point. His writing is in many ways worth noting but what little there is of it is extremely uneven in quality. However, in content he is at least fairly consistent. Overall, I feel he can be viewed primarily as a satirist and a rather bitter and sarcastic one, if not s ...more
Geoff Wooldridge
This is a collection of four relatively short stories or novellas which cover the major works of Nathanael West (born Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein), originally published separately in the 1930s.

Of the four stories, the one I preferred most was Miss Lonelyhearts, the tale of a man writing a popular newspaper column under this pseudonym, offering advice to the lovelorn, the lonely and those down on life. The man, who is never referred to by any other name in the narrative, is frustrated and lonely
Donald Powell
Feb 25, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
Very unhappy with this book. It was a distorted creation of characters and circumstances to spell as much hopelessness, dysfunction and misery as possible. It reminded me of a demented comic book more than meaningful literature. While there are loose associations to greed, crime, cruelty and prejudice, it was so overdone and simplistic it was meaningless to me. Some reviews referred to its a parody or caricature. In my view this was giving it too much credit for a bitter distortion to invoke hop ...more
Gareth Griffiths
Reading the reviews it is amazing to see how everyone disagrees as to the worth of each of the four short stories. This shouldn't be surprising though as each has such a distinct character they could have been written by four different authors.

My personal recommendation is to not miss A Cool Million. The other three stories I could happily have skipped. But isn't it great when we all find something different to appreciate in what is a collection of only 4 works?
Jul 13, 2017 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
I could not understand the satire. If I were to read this again, I would need more than a book club to get me through. I definitely noticed the difference between how this and modern satire is written. It made me wonder if years from now people will struggle to read something I found relevant.
Russell Bittner
Jul 27, 2014 rated it liked it
“Moooompitcher yaaaah. Oh I never hoped to know the passion, the sensuality hidden within you – yes, yes. Drag me down into the mire, drag. Yes! And with your hair the lust from my eyes brush. Yes … Yes … Ooh! Ah!” (p. 61).

‘Nough said (or cited) about The Dream Life of Balso Snell, the first of four short novels in Nathanael West’s Complete Works. West was young at this point, just starting out, and quite enamored of words – or at least of the sound of them – not to mention of the procreative ac
Dec 25, 2012 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Hard to assign a rating to a collection whose constituent parts are so widely variable. In descending order of worth:

Miss Lonelyhearts - Tour de force. Five stars. Given its novella length, to describe it would be to spoil it.

Day of the Locust - Somehow combines, in embryonic, chimeric form, the genres of Hollywood satire, hard-boiled noir, and Depression-era social commentary in a way that places it into a kind of retrospective, Fichtean trinity in which "The Grapes of Wrath" figures as thesis,
Aug 12, 2011 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: to-re-read, fiction
A good friend of F. Scott Fitzgerald, Nathaniel West wrote in the 1930's. He died with his wife in a car wreck, just two days after Fitzgerald died.

I've only read Miss Lonlyhearts and The Day of the Locust and liked them both, but at the time I did think that they were a flawed. West's talent, though, seemed real, distinctive, and headed somewhere. Death mooted the issue.

I used to push Miss Lonelyhearts on everybody I knew who read fiction. I don't even own a copy any more because I gave it to s
Mar 31, 2010 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
More enjoyable than I remember from when I read it ages ago.

Of the four novellas in this, I only read The Day of the Locust this time. It's not entirely my cup of tea: satire with characters who are all of them rather two dimensional on purpose. A pared down style that doesn't really allow for much elegant expression of the dour thoughts West is trying to convey (about society and human unfulfillment). Rather wildly changing perspective (definitely no Jamesian unity of narrative 'centre of cons
Feb 15, 2016 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
This selection of West's fiction pieces offers a comprehensive overview of the author's talents. Three of the pieces are overshadowed by the opus of the collection "The Day of the Locust", worth the price of admission with its lineup of richly created unlikable yet sympathetic characters in 1930s Hollywood. The other works offer insight into the author's talents but sometimes are too self-reflective of the initial sometimes pretentious intention, be it a mirror of the stream of consciousness sty ...more
Apr 10, 2012 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Day of the Locust I hold dear. I buy any copy of it I find lurking in second hand bookshops. It's the least I can do. Savage satire and yet not so savage - rather than cold didactic condescension there's raw emotion and fire. On each page I have the feeling West is somehow simultaneously attracted and repelled by his characters. As if he's in this hell with them getting down and grubby with them. A Cool Million, a wonderful surprise. The sustained comic tone as fresh and funny as anything you wi ...more
Read The Day of the Locust for uni. Not a fan - the characters are unpleasant, nothing much happens, and the general unpleasantness is interspersed with occasional moments of real nastiness (grotesquerie, I suppose, although 'nastiness' seems more to the point).
I don't understand what West is trying to say here, other than Hollywood is artificial and the people there are shallow. I'm told it's a classic of American literature, but for the life of me I can't see why - was this really one of the b
Feb 25, 2012 rated it it was ok  ·  review of another edition
Thank goodness for Wordsworth who have put together this budget edition of Nathanael West's work. It also includes an insightful preface looking at his life and career which ended all too soon. Influenced by Dostoyevsky, West had a talent for satire. Some of his work is too dark and bitter even for me, and it's interesting to ponder how he might have matured. But the opening pages of Miss Lonelyhearts - and the closing pages of Day of the Locust - are brilliant. His take on American life (and wi ...more
Brad Harkins
Nov 19, 2010 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
If you like the bizarre, the darker side of things (if you've ever read Horatio Alger you will find that "A Cool Million" is the exact opposite of his "boot-strap" books, everything goes tragically, and ridiculously wrong), examinations of the human condition, then you may like these books. I've read all four books in the collection, some more than once. Loved all of them. Very well written and thought out. Highly recommended. And, you'll find our where the name "Homer Simpson" comes from.
Nov 19, 2011 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I only wish as many people would read Nathanael West as read his contemporary and close friend, F. Scott Fitzgerald. An excellent and provoking novelist of the jazz-age, writing of a new America of mass-culture and its dark and terrifying underside.
rated it it was amazing
Nov 30, 2015
Robert Pirkola
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Dec 15, 2013
Pinko Palest
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Mar 17, 2016
Steven Kadmon
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Oct 08, 2012
Kim Stitzel
rated it it was amazing
Sep 29, 2008
Mustafa Mustafa
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Aug 07, 2018
Jake Gibson
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Dec 05, 2013
rated it it was amazing
Jun 15, 2012
Harry French
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Jun 06, 2015
Eric Vajentic
There were four short novels contained in this volume. I enjoyed Miss Lonelyhearts, A Cool Million and The Day of the Locust. I couldn't understand The Dream Life of Balso Snell, and it didn't seem worth re-reading. The other three were funny and smart and touched on many of the metaphysical and religious questions I often think about.
Elizabeth Harrison
rated it it was amazing
Jul 16, 2014
rated it it was ok
May 24, 2013
ANIOTUS Marcus Longmuir
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Jun 14, 2011
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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 Rhode Island, 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 too ...more
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