The Day of the Locust, by Nathanael West, is set in 1930s Hollywood and follows the lives of a handful of people peripherally associated with the movie industry. Today, many critics consider it the best novel about Hollywood ever written, but it received little notice from the general public when it was released in 1939. According to Richard B. Gehman in his introduction to the 1976 reprint of the novel, many critics at the time considered the novel to be in "bad taste."
The novel combines realistic features, such as characters who are flawed, with the artificial and surreal atmosphere of the movie industry. Tod Hackett, recently graduated from Yale University, is an illustrator and set designer for a film company. He lives in the same apartment building as Faye Greener, an aspiring and ambitious actress who will not date Tod because he is neither rich nor handsome. Through Faye, Tod meets a cast of seedy and sad characters whom he intends to include in his large painting, "The Burning of Los Angeles." Tod's life is spent unsuccessfully pursuing Faye and imagining the violent scenes that will make up his painting.
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