Library of America offers the most complete collection ever published of Nathanael West’s writings. Along with the four novels for which he is famous, this authoritative collection gathers stories, poetry, essays and plays, film scripts and treatments, and letters.
In the Dada-inspired The Dream Life of Balso Snell
(1931), he freely mixes high-flown literary and religious allusions with erotic and scatological humor. Miss Lonelyhearts
(1933) presents, in a series of grotesque, starkly etched episodes, the spiritual breakdown of a newspaper columnist overwhelmed by his readers’ suffering. By contrast, A Cool Million
(1934) reduces the eternal optimism of Horatio Alger’s novels to a brutal, cartoonish farce. In his last work, The Day of the Locust
(1939), West renders with hallucinatory precision the reverse side of the Hollywood dream, as he choreographs a cast of failures, has-beens, and deluded glamour-seekers in what becomes an apocalyptic dance of death.
Also included is a generous sampling of West’s other surviving work, ranging from freewheeling improvisations and grotesque comic tales to more mainstream work written with Hollywood or Broadway in mind, and including his anti-war satire Good Hunting
and his adaptation of Francis Ile’s famous crime novel Before the Fact
. The uncollected West shows him as a writer who embodied the contradictions and crazy-quilt exuberance of American culture–and raises the question of how he might have developed had his career not been cut short. Selected correspondence with William Carlos Williams, F. Scott Fitzgerald, Malcolm Cowley, Bennett Cerf, and others rounds out the volume and sets West’s literary life in fuller context.
LIBRARY OF AMERICA
is an independent nonprofit cultural organization founded in 1979 to preserve our nation’s literary heritage by publishing, and keeping permanently in print, America’s best and most significant writing. The Library of America series includes more than 300 volumes to date, authoritative editions that average 1,000 pages in length, feature cloth covers, sewn bindings, and ribbon markers, and are printed on premium acid-free paper that will last for centuries.