Nathanael West's fourth and longest novel, together with Miss Lonelyhearts, establishes his claim to permanent attention as a first-rate literary artist and analyst of twentieth-century American life, an achievement which had its genesis during West's five years of close observation of Hollywood in the first decade of talking pictures. West went to Hollywood in 1933 as a screenwriter, and except for a few brief trips, he spent most of his remaining life there. He lived in a rundown apartment house, like the one described in The Day of the Locust, and he was a close observer of the city's varied denizens and pretentious decor. Hollywood was becoming the nation's "dream factory," as a famous anthropologist called it years later, both through its products and the hopes which it held out to the many who dreamed of successfully becoming glamorous actors and actresses or juvenile stars. The
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