Mr. West takes his cynicism to a whole new level with Miss Lonelyhearts. And here I had thought that The Day of the Locust was a dark view of the world when in fact, West toned it down for that later work.
With Miss Lonelyhearts, West not only reveals but shines a very large spotlight on people’s dark sides, those sides we all try to push down and hope we don’t run into those who may have witnessed us in our moments of transgression.
A very dissatisfied writer is working for a newspaper as its advice columnist and reads heart wrenching letters he is expected to respond to with panned answers and little empathy. There is drinking, quite a bit of it, animal sacrifice, gay bashing, promiscuousness and very little work done by the disillusioned writers here.
Miss Lonelyhearts, the central character, is never addressed by his actual name and is beyond despondent. He reads letters and doesn’t know how to respond so turns to alcohol, women and cavorting with other misanthropes. It’s never clear if his references to Christ are sincere or disparaging.
Shrike, boss to Miss Lonelyhearts is another skeptic. He encourages bad behavior and drinking and adds his wife to the mix without seeming to care about her at all. He antagonizes Miss Lonelyhearts over any religious references and seems to gain pleasure over other’s pain.
Betty, a naive young woman, falls for Miss Lonelyhearts and takes him to her aunt’s farm in Connecticut in the hopes of making him feel better. She is treated very poorly yet seems to excuse the bad behavior as a sickness she can cure.
I think I’d really enjoy spending time with Mr. West. I’d expect such a cynic on paper to be not quite so contemptuous in person, or so I’d hope. His work in Hollywood and New York make for great conversations and I’m sure he’d have some interesting tales to spin.
My rating for Miss Lonelyhearts is an 8 out of 10.
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