Jennifer's Reviews > Miss Lonelyhearts / The Day of the Locust

Miss Lonelyhearts / The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West
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Feb 10, 2009

really liked it
bookshelves: 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 had young children, so that was probably an accurate guess.) I remember his frenetic energy - he never seemed to have a proper lesson plan, and he liked to throw in quotes from Bob Dylan and Joni Mitchell into all of his commentary. I liked the class a lot, despite the lack of structure. And I really enjoyed the reading list - it's what made me start thinking of Los Angeles as more than just miles of concrete and smog. We read Day of the Locust, a novel about the people who aspired to be part of the early movie industry, and afterwards, I devoured the rest of West's writing on my own time.

That was a very long introduction for something that has very little to do with the book! Anyway, so I was feeling forlorn at the beginning of February. I went on a walk in my grimy downtown neighborhood, and the combination of my mood, the weather, and the old buildings reminded me of West's work. His characters are spare... and doomed. His descriptions border on surrealism. Do I like the people in these books? Not at all. They're selfish and mean and stupid. But there's a thread of black humor throughout.

This is definitely not easy reading. While short, I had to pace myself to keep from missing things. But I'm glad I re-read them. It had been too long since I had visited these old friends.
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03/09 marked as: read

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message 1: by Marc (new)

Marc Horton Definitely among of my favorite books--both novels--and living LA makes me appreciate them even more...

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