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The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West


I could start spouting off about how Modern Library considers this book to be in the top 100 English Language novels of the 20th Century or how critics and English professors almost universally love this depraved tale of Hollywood alienation and freakishness, but who cares what the "experts" say anyways?

Instead, I think I'll just recommend this book because it's simply fun if "kooky" floats your boat.

Published in 1939 and set in 1930's Hollywood, this rollicking novel takes exceptional glee in exposing the soft, white underbelly of the glitzy movie business. Tod Hackett, a graduate of Yale, accepts a job at an unnamed movie studio painting backdrops and movie sets while continuing his "artistic" painting at home in his cheap room at the San Bernardino Arms. What Tod finds is a savage town filled with heartbreak, booze and selfishness.

Every character throughout the novel seems to be a caricature of a typical 1930's Hollywood "B" movie. We have a determined dwarf, a beautiful damsel who only causes distress but is never actually in it, a concrete cowboy, a nerdy guy from Iowa named Homer Simpson and a child actor named Adore!

This grimy novel features, among other finely written scenes, multiple characters in love with the same dastardly dame, the bloodiest cockfight in gloriously depraved detail that I've ever read, a drunken, dying vaudevillian star who sells fake silver polish and enough rapscallion behavior to make Larry Flynt blush.

To sum it up, in the words of Dashiell Hammett, who is truly one of the great writers of the 1930's and was an accomplished screenwriter in Hollywood: "This is the Hollywood that needs telling about. It's a fine job. I got a kick out of it!" You tell 'em Dashiell!

Roll over Bukowski, Nathanael West beat you to the punch!

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Submitted by Dan@Central

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on September 19, 2011 8:34 AM.

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