The use of color in landscape and setting is a curious, dangerous, oftentimes inaccurate tool. When used incorrectly, these passages read like one of those kiddy menus they hand out at restaurants — sloppily crayoned in by a four-year-old, gummed at the edges, and smattered with marinara sauce. Let me be clear that by no means do I excuse myself from these sins. I am as guilty as any four-year-old out there, and am in frequent need of re-tooling my inner spectrometer. Whenever I do, I look at the following passage, the opening paragraph of F. Scott Fitzgerald’s Tender is the Night. Continue reading
I once asked a poet how she writes poems. Her answer: very, very carefully. For some reason, this response always brings me back to Nathanael West‘s Miss Lonelyhearts. I first heard about this book when Flannery O’Connor mentioned it in her collection of essays, Mysteries and Manners. For a short story writer of her supreme ability and persnickety tastes to say that she admired the quality of someone else’s work, and someone so outside the cannon, certainly did pique my interest.
Nathanael West only wrote three novels, and none of them were all that commercially successful. As many writers did back then, he moved out to Hollywood in the 1930s – this backdrop serving as inspiration for West’s Day of the Locusts, which, in turn, is where Matt Groening got the name for Homer Simpson. West became very good friends with F. Scott Fitzgerald. In fact, West, a notoriously bad driver, died the day after Fitzgerald succumbed to a heart attack, having run a stop sign on the way to attend the funeral. Continue reading