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I know quite a few people really loathe this novel, but I must admit that I have always enjoyed it. Nathanael West’s truly grotesque tale has as much relevance today as it did back in 1939 when it was first published.

Tod Hackett has moved to Hollywood where he has a job in the film industry in the Thirties. Unlike others he isn’t someone trying to be an actor or are bumming around, as West tells us that California is a place where people come to die. Remember that this takes place in the Great Depression, and people who had bought into the American Dream saw it crash around them, leaving them penniless or having to rebuild all over again. As with any recession though certain businesses flourish, such as entertainment, and so the film industry didn’t suffer as other industries did.

Here we meet a host of characters that are intentionally shallow and stereotypical as West drives home his tale of frustration and anger in a deep and bitingly satirical way; this story has teeth and holds on like a pit bull terrier. The characters as such portrayed here are grotesques in one form or another and you could say that this does have a feel of a pantomime in some ways.

As Tod progresses with his painting, The Burning of Los Angeles so he uses the other main characters here as part of his work, but rather like the devil tinkering, what goes on the canvas starts to take a life of its own in the real world. With these outcasts and their perversions, vanity, lies and other failings so everything comes to a head when a new film is being premiered, and thus chaos reigns. With scenes that are slightly surreal as Tod makes his way around the film studio in the hunt for one young lady and the allusion to his name, plus the locust mentioned in the title this does have biblical symbolism, ones that lead to Hell.

If you have never read this before then I would warn you to think about what you are reading, otherwise this may not really come across as it is meant to. It is also worth remembering that when this was first published it was hardly a bestseller, despite some good reviews. It has only been after the author’s death that the book started to gain in popularity and become something that is now recognised as a classic.
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on 23 May 2017
Couldn't finish this book. Recommend to me but just couldn't 'get it'
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on 11 April 1999
In this wonderfully crafted mini-novel, Nathanael West captures the cultural essence of boomtown Los Angeles during its tumultuous adolescence. The dark, coarse, seamy side of the "California dream" is vividly portrayed here. The plot is not really the point in this period piece; the truth is in the characters and their always unfortunate interactions. For those who seek to understand the social history of southern California, this novel might be more useful than a half-dozen academic treatises.
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on 24 May 2012
I Don't know if it's ju
st my kindle but
Like others I have a majo
r problem with the formatt
ing of this kindle edition. I
f you find this revie
w hard to read the
n don't bother buying thi
s product.
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on 28 February 2010
I discovered West quite late, at 49. Can't say it was love at first sight. First time I read Miss Lonelyhearts (just because it was mentioned in Philip K. Dick's The Man in the High Castle) I admit I was disappointed. But then I've re-read all the three major novelettes (those in this paperback edition, which I recommend because you'll have in a thin, cheap volume the two best, plus his black humour masterpiece A Cool Million), and realized that so many American writers have stolen brilliant ideas from these three miniature novels that there must be something to them. I don't want to lecture anybody; go and read them. One can only regret such a talented writer died so young. Btw, the Day of the Locust has been ransacked by those who wrote Sunset Boulevard and by the Coen Bros.--all the apocalyptic LA/Hollywood mythology is there. A breath-taking narrative tour de force.
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on 24 December 2012
Utterly boring non plot. Gave up. What story there is is disjointed and frankly weird. Could not force myself to read more than a third of it. Maybe it improves. I could not be bothered to find out as I did not care about any of the characters.
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on 25 May 2012
I agree with a comment from 9 months ago ( so obviously nothing has been done to rectify the situation) about the unreadable nature of the text. Truncated words all over the place made it a terribly laborious thing to struggle through.

philippab@talktalk.net
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on 10 August 2009
'Miss Lonelyhearts' is a writer on an agony column who seeks various methods of escape - drinking, religion, sex - from the spiritual horrors of his job and persecution at the hands of his malevolent editor, Shrike.

'The Day of the Locust' concerns Tod Hackett, an aspiring painter working as a set designer, and his interactions with various characters scrabbling on the fringes of Hollywood. The title (and while we're at it, let's raise a hat to the greatness of both book titles) introduces the idea of destruction and the novel is filled with several quietly nightmarish images of a land and lives laid waste.

Publishing these two short novels together gives us a tightly bound little package of sharp, pungent and concentrated writing. They poke a stick at the animal American life and the destructive forces compressed within it.
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on 9 November 1998
Nathanael West hits it right on the head. The subject matter of his most famous novel is all the more remarkable in light of the fact that it was written in the 1930's. What we take for granted as the sordid and seedy stories of Hollywood today are actually nothing new, but it takes a shrewd observer like West to show us how even the periphery of the glamour capitol can go down in flames. Perhaps the greatest single symbol is the hero's painting, titled "The Burning of Los Angeles". Think about that when you conjur images of Watts, Rodney King, Mark Fuhrman, and O.J. Simpson. I picked up this book when I saw it listed on the controversial "100 Greatest English-Language Novels of the 20th Century". Until then, I knew it only by reputation but it was well worth investigating. Nathanael West is the real godfather of Hollywood. A shame he is not around to comment on it today.
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on 5 April 2015
There's little more to say, because I agree with your earlier reviewers, except for the one who says the book ends so suddenly. Yes, but by then the author has stated his case and succinctly - it's a very short novel. It is not so much a story as a snapshot of Hollywood at its most decadent. Anyone who has read "Hollywood Babylon" will know that the 1920s and 1930s comprised the most decadent and sordid era of Hollywood - drugs, alcoholism, rape.For me there was nothing unexpected in this book, but I thought it dealt well with the Hollywood of that era, with a man [Tod] who is a talented artist, but who becomes embroiled in the really messy side of the film capital in the shape of the woman Faye. Some of the other characters, such as the Mexican, could better have been described by Hemingway and I felt the whole business of cock fighting reminded me of Hemingway's obsession with bull fighting - but not quite. However, unlike the lengthy novels of Hemingway [For Whom The Bell Tolls in particular], it is an easy read and it is a page-turner. A must for all serious readers of fiction who like to explore all aspects of humanity.
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