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L.A. from Every Angle
Posted April 01, 2010 to photo album "L.A. from Every Angle"
As Noah Baumbach’s Greenberg shows, there are many different L.A.s inside the city limits. Joel Bleifuss takes us on the tour of how artists imagine Los Angeles.
Slide 11: L.A. of the Cynics
Nathanael West (1903-1940). West, born Nathan Weinstein, was a Hollywood screenwriter of B-movies whose novels, in the words of David Yaffe, presented a “a sweeping rejection of political causes, religious faith, artistic redemption and romantic love.” W.H. Auden called this jaded view of the American dream “West’s disease.” It did not make West rich.
West’s last novel, The Day of the Locust, initially sold fewer than 2,000 copies. “That was the time of the Great Depression, and the war in Europe had just begun. Nihilism was the wrong ingredient to add to that recipe,” writes Web critic Uncle Scoopy. “People wanted to believe that the movie industry included something more than sideshow freaks, and they turned to movies primarily for vicarious escapist fun. People living in a dark, frightening world weren’t looking to find out that the movie world was even darker and more frightening than reality.”
Following the novel’s publication, West wrote to F. Scott Fitzgerald, “The box score stands: Good reviews— fifteen per cent, bad reviews—twenty five per cent, brutal personal attacks—sixty percent.” It wouldn’t be until 15 years later that West’s book would find an audience.