©1939 Laura Perelman; (P)2009 Audio Holdings, LLC
"Published in 1939, it is one of the most striking examples of the 'Hollywood novel' in American fiction. Tod Hackett, a set designer, becomes involved in the lives of several individuals who have been warped by their proximity to the artificial world of Hollywood. Hackett's completion of his painting The Burning of Los Angeles coincides with the explosion of the other characters' unfulfilled dreams in a conflagration of riot and murder." (The Merriam-Webster Encyclopedia of Literature)
There is an echo in the background, and the audiobook is not complete. Very uncomfortable to listen to this book.
Is our life just one big fantasy? If you spend your days in a Hollywood studio, or (even more so) on one of their sets, your answer would be an emphatic, “Yes!” So it is that with this atmosphere, this world, a disenchanted Nathaniel West gives animation to that immortal children song refrain, “Life is just a dream.”
Indeed the characters established in the first half of The Day of the Locust seem to aimlessly “row [their] boat.” The would be movie star’s use of temporal sex appeal to manipulate every man she meets, and her father the actor turned peddler (is there a difference?) who has clearly imprinted this relationship abuse upon her heart. The macho dwarf, the cowboy who is obviously not a cowboy, the ultra refined and educated female pimp, and the protagonist, Todd whose art is madly motivated by these mockeries masquerading life; all out of tune with reality, yet in perfect step with a society whose boundaries have no boundaries, but to seclude its occupants into worlds of impossibilities bizarre.
But madness must have a compass to indicate it steers elusive; every shadow must be defined by some intrusion of light. So it is that “Simpson, Homer Simpson” is infused into the story. A contrast to confusion, an anomaly of order in the midst of a rendered storm; his very existence draws insanity from its every hiding place. Yet, are the many layers of his systematic responses evidence of order or of a chaos that can never be subdued forever? Or is the question better queried, “Can great madness hidden remain restrained amidst a storm of madness free?”
West seems to give premonition, as man-built hill comes tumbling down, and with it - a world that should not be. Fake French participants from an era buried long ago, but then defiled by unconsecrated hands and hearts and feet and… costumes. (Was it an accident, or did that dishonored past, with great invisible hand, pull down a defiling present to its grave?)
In the end the reader of this work is left confronted. There is no one here to pity, no one’s cause to be enjoyed. There is only the confusion of one’s own soul making itself more known with every turning of every page of The Day of the Locust.
If you want to step back into the Great Depression and Hollywood for a few hours and experience society from the point of view of a loner who works in the film industry,, this is a good way to do it..The story's hero has a major crush on a very unlikable female who uses him and everyone else as she dreams of becoming a star.
William Atherton has a matter-of-fact tone that makes the oddball characters seem more plausible.
I felt annoyed by the different characters for a variety of reasons. Some parts were humorous and others tragic.
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