Review of The Day of the Locust by Nathanael West

First read: 9/2001 - 11/2001
Reviewed on: 11/7/2001
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I did not like it.
I liked it.
I thought it one of the Best Novels of All Time

There are times in my life when I'm just not into reading fiction.   The semester started, and I spent some time getting caught up, and working on my research, teaching and service.  There were changes in living arrangements, grading number theory, playing online scrabble, and reading some very provocative non-fiction.   I carried Day of the Locust around with me, reading an odd chapter while waiting for my lunch at the Village Inn, or while sitting in a doctor's waiting room.   I had been excited when I read the blurb about "Hollywood in the 30s" - I thought I would learn something about an interesting historical era.  Nope.

I didn't hate this book - it just never grabbed me.  But to be fair, I never really gave it my full attention.  When I finished it, my main thought was, "How did this make the list?"  I mean, I've hated some books on this list, but I can usually understand why SOMEBODY liked them enough to call them Great.   This book mystified me - it was so ordinary.

Yesterday, I was in a waiting room and the only thing I had on me to read was Day of the Locust, so I reread it.  (It isn't a particularly long book - it took me a little over an hour)  It was better when read all at once, instead of spread out for months.  The book isn't about Hollywood-people; it is about people who live in Hollywood.  And they are all pretty pathetic.  West has way of feigning objectivity; completely savaging a lifestyle without dropping the pretense of being a nonjudgmental third-person narrator.

All in all, I didn't think it was worth picking up.  It wasn't particularly enjoyable, nor Literary.  But maybe I've just been in the wrong frame of mind.

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