Nathanael West (1903–1940)

  1. Christopher MacGowan

Published Online: 24 FEB 2012

DOI: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch21

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook

How to Cite

MacGowan, C. (2011) Nathanael West (1903–1940), in The Twentieth-Century American Fiction Handbook, Wiley-Blackwell, Oxford, UK. doi: 10.1002/9781444393675.ch21

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 24 FEB 2012
  2. Published Print: 21 JAN 2011

ISBN Information

Print ISBN: 9781405160230

Online ISBN: 9781444393675



  • Nathanael West (1903–1940), publishing four novels in his lifetime - all four, being commercially unsuccessful;
  • first novel, The Dream Life of Balso Snell (1931) - finding a publisher in Contact Editions;
  • The Dream Life of Balso Snell, something of a mock-epic voyage - into alimentary canal of the wooden Trojan Horse;
  • Miss Lonelyhearts - for readers, being West's finest novel;
  • West, declaring one model for Miss Lonelyheart's experience - being, William James's Varieties of Religious Experience;
  • West, little success with screenwriting - returning east, work on A Cool Million;
  • role of church and media, offering fantasies - attracting and frustrating, central here than in Miss Lonelyhearts;
  • West, finding a major New York publisher - Random House, for The Day of the Locust;
  • scenic designer Todd Hackett - capturing hysteria of the culture in his painting “The Burning of Los Angeles,” being rescued, from painting and subject combining to almost consume him


This chapter contains sections titled:

  • Bibliography