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Nathanael West (1903–1940)

Author of Miss Lonelyhearts & The Day of the Locust

18+ Works 6,296 Members 149 Reviews 28 Favorited

About the Author

American novelist Nathanael West was born in New York City, the son of a prosperous building contractor. He began his college education at Tufts University but transferred to Brown University, from which he graduated in 1924. After graduation, West went to Europe and lived in Paris for a few years, show more where he wrote the short novel The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931), an avant--garde work that reflected his concern with the emptiness of contemporary life. West's modest legacy of completed works reached its peak of recognition during the period when later Jewish American writers were discovering black humor. Among novels that chronicle the wasteland despair and grotesque comedy of the time between the wars, West's Miss Lonelyhearts (1933) and The Day of the Locust (1939) stand out as remarkable examples. The first is about a young man conducting a column of advice to the lovelorn who finds it increasingly impossible not to share the problems of his readers. The Day of the Locust story about a riot that ends with the burning of Los Angeles. If Franz Kafka (see Vol. 2) had lived to come to the United States and become a screenwriter, he might have written a book like The Day of the Locust, which Malcolm Cowley called the best novel ever written about Hollywood. West's other short novel, A Cool Million (1934), is, like The Dream Life of Balso Snell, an experimental work that offers variations on the theme of reality and illusion; both works look toward a literature of the absurd and deserve their place in literary history as influences on a school of American writers that came into prominence during the 1960s. West's own life had aspects of tragic absurdity. He was married to Eileen McKenney, the original of the central figure in My Sister Eileen, while his own sister became the wife of humorist S. J. Perelman. After writing Miss Lonelyhearts, West and his wife went to Hollywood and remained there until they were both killed in a car accident in 1940. (Bowker Author Biography) show less
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Works by Nathanael West

Associated Works

The Day of the Locust [1975 film] (2004) — Original book — 23 copies

Tagged

Common Knowledge

Canonical name
West, Nathanael
Legal name
Weinstein, Nathan
Other names
von Wallenstein Weinstein, Nathan
Birthdate
1903-10-17
Date of death
1940-12-22
Burial location
Mount Zion Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens County, New York, USA
Gender
male
Nationality
USA
Birthplace
New York, New York, USA
Place of death
El Centro, California, USA
Cause of death
car accident
Places of residence
North Hollywood, California, USA
Education
Tufts University
Brown University (PhB ∙ 1924)
Occupations
novelist
playwright
screenwriter
short-story writer
poet
essayist (show all 7)
hotel manager
Relationships
Perelman, S. J. (brother-in-law)
Perelman, Laura (sister)
McKenney, Eileen (wife)
McKenney, Ruth (sister-in-law)
Organizations
League of American Writers
Screen Writers Guild
Motion Picture Guild
Motion Picture Artists Committee
Motion Picture Democratic Committee
Hollywood Anti-Nazi League (show all 10)
Columbia Pictures
RKO Radio Pictures
Republic Pictures
Universal Studios
Short biography
Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein was the child of German-speaking Russian-Jewish parents living on the Upper West Side of Manhattan. He dropped out of high school and gained admission to college by falsifying his high school transcript. In 1931, West published his first work, The Dream Life of Balso Snell. In 1933, he got contract as a scriptwriter for Columbia Pictures and moved to Hollywood. He and his wife were both killed in a car accident in 1940.

Members

Reviews

um well. so the first novella here is the one i read before and i remember not liking it all that well but having a book group discussion about it that gave me a better appreciation. now it's maybe 16 years later and i'm trying again and even with some of that old commentary in my head i like this even less than before. it's also a bit colored, i'm sure, by how much i hated the second novella in this book, but still.

so: miss lonelyhearts is a concept that i really do love actually. the idea of an advice column being started as sort of a fun, let's humor the ladies and give them something to read in the paper (this was first published in 1933) and how the man writing the advice starts to see how truly hard the lives of these women are, and how he can't help them even when he tries. it says something really important about society but i didn't care at all for the execution. (still, 1.75 stars)

a cool million: i know that satires aren't generally for me and almost always miss their mark where i'm concerned, and this was no different. i didn't realize going in that it was a satire and so at first i thought it was just a bit farcical (although not my thing) and threw sexual violence around quite casually (racism too!) but it got more and more extreme and more and more racist and i got more and more annoyed and i was so turned off by it that i can't even say for sure what the point was. (but i am pretty sure that i'd agree with it.) (.5 star)
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overlycriticalelisa | 1 other review | Mar 10, 2024 |
Dark, dirty, bitter and funny. A man struggling with morality and losing his mind in the process. Beautiful filth. I need to have a bath now.
Also some of the sentences were so compelling that i had to reread them a bunch of times and savour their delicate composition.

 
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rubyman | 32 other reviews | Feb 21, 2024 |
This short novel was much better than I expected to be. It deals with the heavy, existential topic - the point(pointlessness) of living - deftly and, as other reviewers have touched on, is timeless in its style and message. It was nice to wallow in the pointlessness, the ridiculousness and the ineptness of both being and human beings. It was nice to watch someone else dealing with it and to entertain the manner in which he did so. It reminded me of one of my favourite books, 'The Blood of the Lamb' by Peter de Vries, but also, 'Catcher in the Rye', 'Nausea', 'Death of a Salesman', 'Post Office' and 'The Sweet Smell of Psychosis' came to mind as I read it. It's worth a read, if you don't mind musings on the meaninglessness of it all!
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Dzaowan | 32 other reviews | Feb 15, 2024 |
no idea about the locusts. The book ends in a riot so maybe that is like a plague of locusts. Maybe this is like a Tarantino film. From banal to sordid to meaningless violence. Some kind of reflection on the meaninglessness of our times... ok this is the 1930s but really what has changed. This guy wins a billion dollars on the lottery and decides to collect vintage cars. Hollowness.
 
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kukulaj | 48 other reviews | Jan 28, 2024 |

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Works
18
Also by
3
Members
6,296
Popularity
#3,898
Rating
½ 3.7
Reviews
149
ISBNs
151
Languages
13
Favorited
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