Cover

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Frontmatter

pdf iconDownload PDF
 

Contents

pdf iconDownload PDF

p. vii

read more

Acknowledgments

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. ix-x

If it takes a village to raise a child, it also takes one to write a book. I have been blessed with a warm and generous village of family, friends, mentors, and colleagues who have helped me to do both over the last few years. ...

read more

Preface

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. xi-xx

Nathanael West holds something of an anomalous place in American literary history. Often mentioned in studies of the thirties, his place within that decade—and within American literature more generally—is poorly understood. West has been endowed with the "power of blackness" (by Harry Levin), ...

read more

Introduction: Who Can We Shoot? The Crisis of Representation in the 1930s

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 3-12

In the opening pages of The Grapes of Wrath (1939)—the text that has, more than any other, come to symbolize the wrenching experience of the Depression—there is a revealing exchange between a tenant farmer and a young man on a tractor. The young man has been sent to knock down the farmer's house and evict him ...

PART I

read more

1. American Superrealism

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 15-22

The title of this book—American Superrealism—is an archaism, drawn from a brief moment in American cultural history when the critical possibilities of European surrealism were exploited by a handful of homegrown writers and painters in the early thirties.1 Superrealism is the way that surréalisme was first "translated" ...

read more

2. Euclid's Asshole: The Dream Life of Balsa Snell

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 23-44

In an unpublished short story entitled "The Fake," Nathanael West recounts the adventures of Beano Walsh, a would-be American artist living the life of a bohemian in Paris during the twenties. Despite his extravagant claims for his art, Beano is really more of a con artist than anything else. ...

PART II

read more

3. "Lousy with Pure / Reeking with Stark": Contact

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 47-66

In the fall of 1931, William Carlos Williams wrote to E. E. Cummings, requesting poetry for a little magazine he was editing with Nathanael West. It was called Contact. (Actually, the magazine was a revival of a previous publication that Williams had put out in the early twenties with Robert McAlmon.) ...

read more

4. The People Talk: Miss Lonelyhearts

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 67-87

During the thirties there was an unparalleled attempt to record, transcribe, or otherwise gain access to the voice and image of the people. "The people" (as they were affectionately, and sometimes proprietarily, known) talked and talked and talked. In return, they were recorded, photographed, and even tagged as specimens. ...

read more

5. The Folklore of Capitalism: A Cool Million

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 88-112

In 1934, Nathanael West went to work on a Broadway musical revue he called "American Chauve Souris." The revue marked a revival of interest in American folk materials during the Depression that resulted in, among other things, Howard Hanson's opera Merry Mount, Carl Carmer's collection of Southern folklore, ...

read more

6. The Clich

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 113-131

It is tempting to think of The Day of the Locust as a redaction of J. K. Huysmans' A Rebours, with the Barber in Purdue as demotic heir to the dandy, and the back lot of a movie studio as the absurd analogue to the dandy's boudoir. The Barber in Purdue is the slightly condescending name by which the public ...

read more

Postscript: Madonna's Bustier; or "The Burning of Los Angeles"

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 132-138

More than half a century after the death of Nathanael West, his name continues to be invoked in an effort to explain some of the more puzzling aspects of our culture. "It's like something out of Nathanael West," a Chicago newscaster opined as he watched live videotape of the burning and looting that took place ...

Notes

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 139-174

Index

pdf iconDownload PDF

pp. 175-182