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Nathanael West Biography

(1903–40), Contact, The Dream Life of Balso Snell, Miss Lonelyhearts

American novelist and screenwriter, born Nathan Wallenstein WEINSTEIN in New York, educated at Brown University. West lived in Paris before returning home to work as the manager of a New York hotel where he befriended several other writers, and also worked as an associate of William Carlos Williams in editing the magazine Contact. During this time he wrote three short novels: The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931), a surrealist depiction of characters living in a Trojan horse; Miss Lonelyhearts (1933), which portrays a disillusioned newspaper columnist seeking security in religion, in a society crippled by materialism; and A Cool Million: The Dismantling of Lemuel Pitkin (1934), which is a savage satire on the Horatio Alger myth and an assault on the mythical pillars of American society. He moved to Hollywood in 1935 where he adapted Miss Lonelyhearts for the screen (Advice to the Lovelorn), wrote several screenplays, and became more disillusioned. His only full-length novel is The Day of the Locust (1939), in which the degradation of Hollywood and, by extension, the USA are exposed in a grotesque portrait of the derelicts and boredom of life in the movie capital. After numerous vignettes of Hollywood life, the novel's closing sequence is, in many ways, a prophetic allegory of the consequences of the rise of fascism and the coming world war. West was killed in a car crash in California.

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Literature Reference: American Literature, English Literature, Classics & Modern FictionEncyclopedia of Literature: Robert Penn Warren Biography to Kenneth White Biography