Remembering “The Day of the Locust”

n1800251It was 70 years ago that Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein, better known to you and I as Nathanael West, published The Day of the Locust. 

A new edition of the book is being paired up with the other seminal West tome, Miss Lonelyhearts (New Directions, $11.95 with a foreword from Jonathan Lethem) and if you’ve never read either, then do so. 

Both are highly required reading and still relevent to today’s world.

The Day of Locusts is a pretty perfect slice of the perverse Hollywood underbellyand still burns like a sharp roman candle 70 years after its first publication. 

The LA Times has high praise for the book and its author. 

Los Angeles has been the subject of, and setting for, many fine novels, yet “The Day of the Locust” still feels like the single best-achieved, and most oracular, piece of fiction the city has inspired. West wanted to show the dump behind the dream, and he did it in spades; but he proved too that L.A. could be the seedbed of high art. Tod Hackett’s epic dream painting becomes a metaphor for what West actually did achieve.

“He was going to show the city burning at high noon, so that the flames would have to compete with the desert sun and therefore appear less fearful, more like bright flags flying from roofs and windows than a terrible holocaust. He wanted the city to have a gala air as it burned, to appear almost gay. And the people who set it on fire would be a holiday crowd.”

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