Friday, February 1, 2008

The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

Rating: 7/10

Published: 1939
Number of pages: 215

Started: 27 January 2008
Finished: 30 January 2008

Summary (taken from

Novel by Nathanael West about the savagery lurking beneath the Hollywood dream. Published in 1939, it is one of the most striking examples of the "Hollywood novel" in American fiction. Tod Hackett, a set designer, becomes involved in the lives of several individuals who have been warped by their proximity to the artificial world of Hollywood. Hackett's completion of his painting "The Burning of Los Angeles" coincides with the explosion of the other characters' unfulfilled dreams in a conflagration of riot and murder.

This is an interesting story, full of vividly written archetypal Hollywood characters. There's the wannabe star with platinum hair, the vicious dwarf, the big-shot producer, the child star and his stage mother, etc. The characters, scenes and settings are all very nicely written: West does some lovely descriptive writing, and he takes his time in setting up each scene so that the reader has a clear image of it in their minds before he continues on with the story.

There's not really much of a plot happening here; it's mostly a series of interactions involving one or more characters. There are several funny moments and the story builds up at the end into a frightening scene of mob hysteria...and then it ends very abruptly, leaving the reader curious as to the fate of several characters. It's not a book that I would necessarily recommend to everyone, but it's an interesting read nevertheless.

My edition also came with a second, shorter story called The Dream Life of Balso Snell. I wasn't very impressed with this one - it was bizarre and difficult to follow. Lots of ramblings from random characters on religion, art and love. I didn't take this story into consideration when deciding my rating, otherwise the rating would have gone down a point or two!

No comments: