The Day of the Locust

The Day of the Locust

by Nathanael West


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The great Hollywood novel is now available as a stand-alone New Directions edition

Admired by F. Scott Fitzgerald, Dorothy Parker, and Dashiell Hammett, and hailed as one of the “Best 100 English-language novels” by Time magazine, The Day of the Locust continues to influence American writers, artists, and culture. Bob Dylan wrote the classic song “Day of the Locusts” in homage and Matt Groening’s Homer Simpson is named after one of its characters. No novel more perfectly captures the nuttier side of Hollywood. Here the lens is turned on its fringes — actors out of work, film extras with big dreams, and parents lining their children up for small roles. But it’s the bit actress Faye Greener who steals the spotlight with her wildly convoluted dreams of stardom: “I’m going to be a star some day—if I’m not I’ll commit suicide.”

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780811224611
Publisher: New Directions Publishing Corporation
Publication date: 05/28/2015
Edition description: Reissue
Pages: 160
Sales rank: 135,380
Product dimensions: 5.00(w) x 6.90(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

In 1940, when an automobile accident prematurely claimed Nathanael West's life, he was a relatively obscure writer, the author of only four short novels. West's reputation has grown considerably since then and he is now considered one of the 20th century's major authors. Born in New
York, West worked as the night manager of the Kenmore Hotel on East 23rd
Street in Manhattan, as a contract scriptwriter for Columbia Pictures in Hollywood, and as a screenwriter for RKO Radio Picture.

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The Day of the Locust 3.2 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 16 reviews.
Guest More than 1 year ago
Full of symbolism and all that good stuff that makes it a timeless classic and an eye into a time period younger generations haven't experienced. Not extremely interesting or developed in the sense of plot though. If you read this book read it slowly.
Guest More than 1 year ago
I wanted just to read something easy and get rid of the boredom. I started reading the Introduction by Richard B. Gehman, found it interesting and decided to skip it and start reading. I found it readable and serious. The first paragraph is very engaging. To write a novel about movies with exotic and perhaps, meaningless props is an interesting metaphore for the benefits of modern entertainment and for our desire for continual instant gratification and the following sadness. 'He would never again do a fat red barn, old stone wall or sturdy Nantucket fisherman. ...despite his race, training and heritage, neither Winslow Homer nor Thomas Ryder could be his masters and he turned to Goya and Daumier.' Thank you.
krbrancolini on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It is often difficult to separate the film version of a book from the work itself; this is the case for me with "Day of the Locust." I have tried not to compare the two, but unfortunately I rewatched the film about a week before I read the book. I had seen the film version (directed by John Schlesinger and released in 1975) of Nathanael West's iconic story of Depression-era Los Angeles years ago. Scenes and impressions had stuck with me -- like Homer Simpson sadly sitting in his backyard watching a lizard -- but I was still surprised by the book. It is quite different from the film in a number of important and interesting ways. It is rich and beautifully-written book, suffused with the atmosphere of the seedier side of Hollywood. While reading, I kept thinking about people like Charlie Sheen. Wealthy, yet relentlessly sleazy. In "Day of the Locust" we meet sleaze at both ends of the economic spectrum. Success in Hollywood is not predicated on integrity, kindness, or even good taste. One difference between the film and the book is the character of set designer/painter Tod Hackett. Schlesinger doesn't convey his violent thoughts in the film. Tod seems relatively benign and well-meaning in the film, a Yale man slumming it in Hollywood. But in the book he reveals himself to be more in his element than one might imagine; he fantasizes and raping and beating his neighbor, aspiring actress Fay Greener, who is 17 years old. Tod seems much more emotionally unstable. Slowly, Tod fills the walls of his apartment with apocalyptic sketches and studies in the film, but the book reveals that he's planning a large painting called "The Burning of Los Angeles." Those dark red drawings, with dead faces make more sense. The book emphasizes that these are all people who have come to Los Angeles to die. The book also creates a more nuanced portrait of Homer Simpson, although Donald Sutherland's portrayal in the film is perfect. Homer is the only sympathetic character -- and then he brings about a tragedy. Homer probably has some form of autism; he definitely suffers from Obsessive Compulsive Disorder. At one point, Tod asks him to stop doing the same thing with his hands and Homer answers, "I have to do it three times." He is so profoundly disturbed that you sense impending doom from the first time you meet him. The end of the book is horrific, but much is left to the reader's imagination. Thus, to me it was more effective than the violent and chaotic ending to Schlesinger's film. "Day of the Locust" is one of those books that I wish I could read for the first time again. It's disturbing and weirdly resonant with Los Angeles today. And I recommend reading the book before watching the film if you haven't seen it already.
CollectorOfAshes on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is yet another "modern" book that consists of vile characters doing vile things to one another, people arranged like disjointed puppets, for the purpose of performing dehumanizing dances. I survived the profanity, the porn movie scene, but when the main character shared his desire to rape and went into detail about it, that was enough. The writing itself has spots of humor and occasional insights, but it weighed down by the unemotional lens of the narrator, whose tone is like that used in Camus' The Stranger -- cold, abstract, unmoved by pity or pain.
AlexAustin on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Fairly well-known, The Day of the Locust is a slim, funny, caustic novel about Hollywood's poisonous promise to the little people, actually and figuratively. Less well-known, Miss Lonelyhearts tracks the eponymous advice columnist as he reaches out to the cripples, broken-hearts and unbalanced who look to him for salvation.
chlebo on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An intriguing story about the unfulfilled promises of Hollywood in the 1930s. There does not appear to be a plot, but West's writing is so skillful and precise that you keep reading just to see, truly see--because his images ate so vivid--what he will describe next. Had to read this for school, but it exceeded my expectations.
datrappert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
West's grotesque tale of the dark side of Hollywood still resonates--but like a bell with a crack in it. Nothing seems quite real, as the author depicts an artist, a retired hotel bookkeeper, a former vaudevillian reduced to selling silver polish, the vaudevillian's beautiful but intensely strange daughter, her other suitors, cockfighters, a successful screenwriter, but above all, the crowd of nonentities who inhabit the corners of the place, slowly building up their anger over being cheated by the California dream.The book is more notable for its scenes than for its overall story. I especially enjoyed the Battle of Waterloo that the artist witnesses on a back lot. All the while, the artist is working on his masterpiece, a painting called "The Burning of Los Angeles". West seems to find it a distinct possibility, and not from wildfires, but almost 75 years after this novel was written, not much has really changed. The little people are still little.
TakeItOrLeaveIt on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
A quick read classic about those who fail to succeed in the simulated back lots of Los Angeles¿ sordid sprawling terrain circa 1930¿s. Nathanael West focuses on how women drive men to ruin, desperation, violence and ultimately, the burning of Los Angeles both figuratively and metaphorically. Pent up sexual aggression is probably the underlining theme- the artist narrator never gets what he wants- and by the end of the book even fails to imagine rape while eating a piece of finely prepared dead cow¿West fills his canonical tale with other despairing emotions in his 1939 Los Angeles. Not much has changed. Not to be read while happy, which is why I read it during an atrocious complacent and ennui filled trip to the star-studded falsity I grew up in.
bookweaver on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I have to admit, I skimmed the last 20 pages or so. Not my type of book
hrissliss on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Somewhat absurdist, slightly surreal. Great book on some of the struggles of modern, marginalized humanity. (Especially humanity in L.A./Hollywood.) The characters are all interesting and Unique. (Or quirky. Not sure which fits better.) Prose was spare, but (sort of...) poetic. Wonderful descriptions. 7/10
k8_not_kate on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I recall this novel sort of coming close to being deeply significant somehow but it missed the mark in my opinion.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
A must read
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
Bookish1KP More than 1 year ago
Excellent read!
dranney More than 1 year ago
Every 2 pages there was a typo. Not even an exaggeration. The book was very difficult to enjoy because this particular print was so bad. There were misspellings, random numbers after words and various apostrophes scattered throughout. Many Cs instead of Gs, etc.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago