San Francisco: The Arion Press, 2013. Lucy Gray. 9-3/4 by 7 inches, with 180 numbered pages plus twenty unnumbered pages for the photographs. The paper is Italian mouldmade Magnani Velata, in two weights, lighter for the text and heavier for photographs which are tipped into die-stamped recesses. The text and photograph captions were printed by letterpress from Monotype Bodoni Book. The photographs were printed in duotone over a metallic silver ground, overlaid with varnish. The binding is full cloth, in a chartreuse color, over boards with titling and the image of a rising cloud of locusts on the cover. The book is presented in a cloth and paper covered slipcase. The edition is limited to four hundred numbered copies for sale. All copies are signed by the photographer. New. Item #CNAP097
When Nathanael West died, in a car crash that also killed his wife Eileen, on December 22, 1940, he was not a well-known author. In 1939 his novel "The Day of the Locust" was published.
F. Scott Fitzgerald, who died the day before the Wests, had written: "The Day of the Locust has scenes of extraordinary power. Especially I was impressed by the pathological crowd at the premiere, the character and handling of the aspirant actress, and the uncanny almost medieval feeling of some of his Hollywood background set off by those vividly drawn grotesques." Despite this appreciation, it took years for the book to become recognized as a modern American classic and for critics to agree that "The Day of the Locust" is the best novel ever written about Hollywood. The novel is pivotal in literary history. It is by turns surreal, revealing of the shams of the motion-picture business, seedy, sinister, macabre, doped-up, sexy, funny, and tragic.
As David Thomson states in his introduction: "Nathanael West was one of the first writers to feel that disappointment in America, and to relate it to the false promises, the shine of advertising, and the cult of being good-looking and happy, that had come with the movies. . . . This is the classic American dream slipping over into nightmare; it is the locusts eclipsing the sunlight". The introductory essay by the distinguished film critic and historian David Thomson elucidates the novel and its relationship to Hollywood and the movies in the Golden Age of the late thirties, its importance to American fiction, and its continuing relevance today. Without giving too much away, it provides the reader with an outline of the story and a guide to an appreciation of its broad and subtle effects.
The twenty photographs are done in the manner of movie stills, as if taken at night. Discrete captions below the photographs identify the subjects.
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