"The Day of the Locust" is a 1939 novel by Nathanael West. The book was acclaimed by fellow novelists of the time but mostly ignored by critics and only sold a little over 1,000 copies during it's first run of publishing. Since the author's untimely death, the novel has taken on more success and has been included in … [Read more...] about The Day of the Locust
Nathanael West was born Nathanael Weinstein on October 17th, 1903 in New York City, New York. He was the oldest child of Jewish parents from Russia who lived on the Upper West Side of New York. At and early age, West began failing his schoolwork and dropped out of high school later attending Tufts College by forging a transcript to say that he had graduated. He was quickly expelled from Tufts and stole the transcript of a cousin with the same name to get into Brown University.
Although West did not enjoy schoolwork, he was an avid reader and enjoyed the work of French surrealists and British poets like Oscar Wilde. At this time he developed an interest in mysticism and Christianity.
West managed to graduate with a degree from Brown and then left for Paris for three months. At this time he changed his last name to West. When his family began experiencing financial difficulties during the Great Depression, West returned home and began working as a night manager at a hotel in Manhattan. While working there, he began writing seriously and published his first novel "The Dream Life of Balso Snell" in 1931.
In 1933, West moved to Hollywood to work as a screenwriter. Although he published three novels during the mid-1930s, West did not see much popular success with his writing and struggled financially for a time.
In 1939, he used his knowledge of the world of screenwriting to publish his novel, "The Day of the Locust," a story about a man that moves to California to become a screenwriter.
West worked as a screenwriter up until 1940 when he died suddenly in a car accident while returning to Los Angeles from a trip to Mexico. He and his wife, Eileen McKenney were killed instantly, and their bodies were buried in Mount Zion Cemetery in Queens, New York.
After West's sudden death, his reputation took on a new life, and his novels began to see more success. His 1933 novel, "Miss Lonelyhearts" about a male newspaper reporter who works as an advice columnist in New York, is widely considered to be his best work.