Books Magazine

“Where Else Should They Go but California?”

By Robert Bruce @robertbruce76

This is how Nathanael West describes a group of people in Hollywood who have gathered around a theater so they can catch a glimmer of a movie star.

The passage comes from The Day of the Locust:

…They were savage and bitter, especially the middle-aged and the old, and had been made so by boredom and disappointment.

All their lives they had slaved at some kind of dull, heavy labor, behind desks & counters, in the fields and at tedious machines of all sorts, saving their pennies and dreaming of the leisure that would be theirs when they had enough. Finally that day came. They could draw a weekly income of ten or fifteen dollars. Where else should they go but California, the land of sunshine & oranges?

Once there, they discover that sunshine isn’t enough. They get tired of oranges, even of avocado pears and passion fruit. Nothing happens. They don’t know what to do with their time. They haven’t the mental equipment for leisure, the money nor the physical equipment for pleasure. Did they slave so long just to go to an occasional Iowa picnic? What else is there?

Definitely a Grapes of Wrath theme in there, yes?

I love the pacing and the rhythm of that passage, how West describes these people.

The Day of the Locust is basically 150 pages describing the lives of sad, desperate people. It’s so well written, but it has hopelessness and despair all over it.

But that’s nothing new with the books on this list. Onward I go.

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