The Dream Life of Balso Snell • Miss Lonelyhearts • The Day of the Locust
“Nathanael West’s stunning four novels are American tales, rooted in our transmogrifying soil. Morality plays they are, classified as comedies. They are indeed often funny. Funny as a crutch.”
—Elizabeth Hardwick, The New York Review of Books
The Day of the LocustNathanael West
It was a mistake to think them harmless curiosity seekers. They were savage and bitter, especially the middle-aged and the old, and had been made so by boredom and disappointment.
All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor, behind desks and counters, in the fields and at tedious machines of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came. They could draw a weekly income of ten or fifteen dollars. Where else could they go but California, the land of sunshine and oranges?
Once there, they discover that sunshine isn’t enough. They get tired of oranges, even of avocado pears and passion fruit. Nothing happens. They don’t know what to do with their time. They haven’t the mental equipment for leisure, the money nor the physical equipment for pleasure. Did they slave so long just to go to an occasional Iowa picnic? What else is there? They watch the waves come in at Venice. There wasn’t any ocean where most of them came from, but after you’ve seen one wave, you’ve seen them all.