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 Nathanael West

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Nathanael West

  • Birth 17 Oct 1903 New York, New York County (Manhattan), New York, USA
  • Death 22 Dec 1940 El Centro, Imperial County, California, USA
  • Burial Maspeth, Queens County, New York, USA
  • Plot Path 27R, Daniel Webster Benevolent Society, Weinstein Plot
  • Memorial ID 6210

Author. His blackly comic novels dissected what he believed was the moral emptiness and horror of the American Dream. In "Miss Lonelyhearts" (1933), a journalist assigned to write an advice column as a joke becomes unhinged by the problems of his readers. "The Day of the Locust" (1939) is a savage satire of Hollywood, played out by the fringe dwellers of the movie business and a voracious public that feeds on its fantasies. His other novels are the surreal "The Dream Life of Balso Snell" (1931), and "A Cool Million" (1934), a Candide-like parody of the Horatio Alger rags-to-riches myth. Nathan Wallenstein Weinstein was born in New York City, the son of prosperous Jewish immigrants from Lithuania. As a rebellious student with a keen sense of the absurd, he barely graduated from Brown University in 1924. Two years later he legally changed his name to Nathanael West and began his first serious writing attempts during a sojourn in Paris. Back home he worked as a night manager in hotels owned by his family and gained entry to New York literary society with help from his best friend and later brother-in-law, humorist S. J. Perelman. In 1932 he and William Carlos Williams edited a short-lived revival of the noted literary journal "Contact". "Miss Lonelyhearts" marked a turning point. The novel was enthusiastically reviewed by important critics, but the publisher went bankrupt and most of the first edition never made it to bookstores. Nevertheless it brought West to Hollywood's attention and he settled there in 1935, co-writing scripts for B films while gathering the raw material that went into "The Day of the Locust". His most important screen credit was for the thriller "Five Came Back" (1939). In April 1940 he married Eileen McKenney, the subject of the best-selling book "My Sister Eileen". Seven months later both were killed in an auto collision near El Centro, California, while returning from a hunting trip in Mexico. West was 37. "Had he gone on", lamented Williams, "there would have unfolded...the finest prose talent of our age". West had a reputation as a "writer's writer" and counted F. Scott Fitzgerald, William Faulkner, Edmund Wilson, Dorothy Parker, Dashiell Hammett, and Lillian Hellman among his friends. But his books were not popular during his lifetime and it was not until the 1950s that his stature was recognized. His "Complete Works" were first published in 1957. Since then "Miss Lonelyhearts" and "The Day of the Locust" have been translated into a dozen languages and made into films.

Bio by: Bobb Edwards


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  • Maintained by: Find A Grave
  • Added: 25 Aug 1999
  • Find A Grave Memorial 6210
  • Find A Grave, database and images (https://www.findagrave.com : accessed ), memorial page for Nathanael West (17 Oct 1903–22 Dec 1940), Find A Grave Memorial no. 6210, citing Mount Zion Cemetery, Maspeth, Queens County, New York, USA ; Maintained by Find A Grave .