4.1.11

Nathanael West's Nihilism

Ingrid Norton reviews Miss Lonelyhearts and The Day of the Locust
Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust and The Dream  Life of Balso Snell
As part of a series on short novels, 'revisiting classics and considering neglected masterpieces', Open Letters Monthly presents Ingrid Norton's comparative review of Nathanael West's 'nihilist' fiction:
In The Day of the Locust Tod Hackett, idealistic-art student-turned-set-designer, stalks Hollywood’s sun-drenched boulevards, ever on the alert for people from Middle America who seek opportunity or health in Hollywood but who in all reality “come to California to die.” He recognizes them by their “somber and badly cut clothing” from mail order catalogues, the hopeless and hateful way they return his gaze. He fantasizes about sketching their faces into his brilliant unpainted masterpiece, “The Burning of Los Angeles.” He imagines them turning against their artificial world, a mob scene of fury and fire. Meeting people, he habitually sorts between those who would be torchbearers and those who would simply scream encouragement and run alongside the ones brandishing fire. Much of the thwarted violence, however, turns out to be his own. [Read more]
Source: Ingrid Norton, 'Year with Short Novels: The Nihilism of Nathanael West', Open Letters Monthly