tENTATIVELY, cONVENIENCE's Reviews > Miss Lonelyhearts / The Day of the Locust

Miss Lonelyhearts / The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
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it was amazing
bookshelves: literature

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 b/c I just read this in Lewis Yablonsky's great bk "Robopaths" last nite:

Literary works abound with descriptive appraisals of the condition of "common people," their proclivity for ahuman acts, and their general simmering hostility. One perceptive literary analyst of this genre of the "silent majority" of robopaths was the brilliant novelist, Nathanael West, who revealed some dimensions of the problem. In the late thirties he came to Hollywood and trained his literary camera not on the movie studios or the stars, but on the "common people" who, as West's central character in The Day of the Locust states, "came to California to die." West, through this character, wrote:

"All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor, behind desks and counters, in the fields and at tedious machines of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came. . . . Where else could they go but to California, the land of sunshine and oranges?

"Once there, they discover that sunshine isn't enough. . . . Nothing happens. They don't know what to do with their time. . . . Their boredom becomes more and more terrible. They realize that they've been tricked and burn with resentment. . . . Nothing can ever be violent enough to make taut their slack minds and bodies. They have been cheated and betrayed. They have slaved and slaved for nothing."

In The Day of the Locust a central character is Tod Hackett, a young painter who is planning a painting called "The burning of Los Angeles." (Interestingly, this artisitic and literary speculation is already a reality.) [Yablonsky's bk was published in 1972 so he's presumably referring to the Watts riots of 1968(?) here] The book ends with the "living dead" masses venting their frustration and hostility in a mad riot of fire that sets off the burning of other cities throughout the country. West, like Moreno, Capek, Huxley, and Orwell, has turned out to be a seer of an incipient apocalypse nurtured by robopathic leaders and followers in contemporary social machine societies.
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Reading Progress

Finished Reading
March 7, 2008 – Shelved
March 7, 2008 – Shelved as: literature

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