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