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Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust

3.91  ·  Rating details ·  9,224 ratings  ·  530 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 ad ...more
Paperback, 191 pages
Published June 23rd 2009 by New Directions (first published 1939)
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Mar 09, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Miss Lonelyhearts, a novella that made the "1001 Books You Must Read" list, is a type of companion piece to Salinger's maudlin, crude, symbolic works about humanity. 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 ...more
Mar 29, 2013 rated it really liked it
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
Mar 10, 2008 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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!
E. G.
Jun 25, 2015 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
--The Day of the Locust
--Miss Lonelyhearts
Unsettling, harsh, and wildly inappropriate mixed with a blandness that could put a reader to sleep in seconds. This book has weighed on my mind in a way others haven’t in a while. My finger hovered above the two and four stars button far too long due to my struggle with content versus writing style.

CONTENT: I’m just floored by the amount of crude and offensive material this author covered in such a nonchalant way. Abrupt topic introductions that led me to either reread to make sure what I perc
Jul 14, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: fiction
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
Aug 04, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 10, 2009 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: 2009
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
Apr 20, 2009 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Jun 03, 2013 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
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
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
Mar 22, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: los-angeles
"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
Jeanette (Again)
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.
Sarah Etter
Jun 09, 2011 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
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
Feb 26, 2017 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
Shelves: library_books
As West is considered a "name" writer, thought I'd try this one.

Read Day of the Locust first, which turned out to be a good idea. Liked it a lot for its sense of time and place (1930's L. A.), as well as finding the characters interesting for the most part, although The Cowboy and The Mexican in the final chapters made the ending drag out. Between 3 and 4 stars.

Miss Lonelyhearts, on the other hand, never really engaged me. He seemed a cold, selfish guy; the rest seemed pathetic. Moreover, there
Eileen Ying
Aug 19, 2017 rated it it was ok
I picked this book out years ago at The Book Thing in Baltimore because I thought the cover looked charming. I still see it all the time in indie bookstores. If you look at its Goodreads reviews, you'll see that they are overwhelmingly positive; Nathanael West definitely has a bit of a cult following. BUT if you look a little closer, you'll realize that most of these 4- and 5-star reviews are made by intellectual-looking white men. You know the type. I think this says a lot about what sort of no ...more
I rebelled and struggled against reading these two stories, and had to force myself to press on nearly all the way through. In the end I found some redemption/value, but very little of the experience was anything I'd call enjoyable.

These stories are populated, by bitter, disenfranchised men who fantasize about rape as an appropriate corrective to "uppity" women. They are certainly not the source of their own ugliness -- all are struggling in a Depression-era world -- but still, the first scene
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.

Amy Sue
Nov 13, 2019 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
Overall, the "grotesques" (as described by F. Scott Fitzgerald) in the books (two for one!) really cut through to describe the beginning of what I'd call late stage capitalism. I am, as ever, a fan of succinct wordplay, and the fact that you get so much character information and development in such short works makes these pieces masterful. I confess I almost gave these three stars because of some triggering sections, but perhaps that's the point? Now, I'll take each in turn, and below the review ...more
Bryan "They call me the Doge"
After recently having read Henry Miller's Plexus, and now Nathanael West's Miss Lonelyhearts, it occurs to me that 1930s America is as foreign to me as a colony on one of Jupiter's moons. I also believe there is a contemporary effort by some to portray the past in terms of today, with the objective of pointing out that people from then were just like people today. In the sense that they had the same emotional urges and drives, I might agree; but when factoring in the pressure of conformity and t ...more
Matthew Appleton
May 20, 2020 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I reviewed these two books separately on account of Miss Lonelyhearts being on my 1001 list and needing to go in the shelf without The Day of the Locust.

Ironically, the latter is better, and not on the 1001.

Miss Lonelyhearts: Review here.
The Day of the Locust: Review here.

Read and despair: wistful, sad, oddly violent, broken dreams and bizarre characters.
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
Beth Cato
Nov 27, 2018 rated it did not like it  ·  review of another edition
This is a book about horrible people being horrible to each other.

These two novels (more like novellas by modern standards) are considered classics. Miss Lonelyhearts was made into multiple movies and even an opera; Day of the Locust was made into a movie and was later dubbed one of the best books of the 20th century. That's a sad statement about the century. In any case, the movie versions must have radically changed elements from the books, as they both feature bleak tones and existential dile
May 30, 2012 rated it it was amazing
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
Dec 15, 2007 rated it it was amazing  ·  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
Feb 27, 2013 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
West sometimes gets lumped along with his contemporary John Steinbeck - two writers of the Great Depression. But West had the more original view of America, and expressed it with an acidic clarity. He saw, as few others could, that hysteria was the price of the American dream. When the crowd in The Day of the Locust turns violent, it's cathartic for West's entire oeuvre.

An original voice that died too young.

Coruscating. Hilarious. Nightmarish. Bleak.


Need to re-read this.
John Pistelli
Nathanael West's 1933 novella, Miss Lonelyhearts, has passionate defenders. Harold Bloom declares it his favorite modern novel; in his chapter on it in How to Read and Why, he notes that Flannery O'Connor's own two favorite modern novels, which she saw as akin to each other, were As I Lay Dying and Miss Lonelyhearts. And there is a blurb inside my New Directions edition from Stanley Edgar Hyman calling it "one of the three best American novels of the first half of our century (with The Sun Also ...more
Apr 16, 2018 rated it liked it  ·  review of another edition
2-in-1. This book is two stories in one. The broken heart on the front of the book makes fits both stories perfectly. These stories won’t make you cry but they will make you question why you started reading the book. The books slowly drain all the joy and happiness out of you one page at a time. Like most readers I try to connect with the characters in someway but in these that leads you to question the society we live in. Most characters are not a joy to read about. They have a bleak look at li ...more
Sep 22, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Nathanael West was a master of tense humor, finding laughs even in the bleakest of settings. Both novels (more properly called novellas) in this set are perfect examples of his skill. These stories of a sad advice-to-the-lovelorn columnist and people on the gritty edge of Hollywood are rich with West's worldview of a chaotic world going to madness. If you enjoy well-placed metaphor, West will not disappoint. From the first page, where he speaks of letters seeking advice, "all of them alike, stam ...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 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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